Journalists in the family courts- will it still be private law? A legal update
In January 2023 it was confirmed that journalists will be allowed to report on family law cases as part of the Transparency Reporting Pilot.
It has been widely acknowledged in recent years that the family court has had a significant amount of negative press and a lot of trust has been lost from the public’s view of the family justice system. It is hoped that the new approach will inspire more trust and confidence in the system, whilst holding those involved professionally accountable.
The pilot began on 30 January in Leeds, Carlisle and Cardiff (it is unclear whether or not it will be extended beyond those courts to the whole of England and Wales) with court applications and placement applications made within court proceedings open to reporting and, after a 6-8 week wait period, private children law cases may also be reported on. The parameters for the reporting will be limited and only those who are accredited journalists or legal bloggers will be able to report on the cases.
The cases will also need to be reported on anonymously with no information which could identify any child or family being released as part of any report. The Local Authority, Judge and legal representatives are all able to be identified by the reports, in the hopes of encouraging transparency. This will mean that journalists will be able to sit in on remote and attended court hearings and will be able to produce their reports or blogs as they see fit, within strict limitations. The journalists will not be allowed to report on adoption cases, Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) applications, financial remedies applications or domestic abuse cases.
The transparency order will also allow for legal documents to be anonymously released including skeleton arguments and position statements as well as allowing for journalists to physically sit in on court hearings. It is thought that the actual interest by journalists will be relatively low after the initial interest. This is primarily due to the fact that the current case list due to be heard by the courts will not change and the journalists will not be informed about any specific cases for them to report on.
Views in the industry suggest that it will be interesting to see how the new pilot will work in practice as it is unclear how the public will take to their private information being capable of being reported on, but it is clear that further accountability is needed within the justice system.
For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: email@example.com or telephone: