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Family Court transparency pilot extended

The Transparency Implementation Group Reporting Pilot, which was introduced in 2023 to allow accredited media and legal bloggers to report what they hear and see in family court cases, has been extended to cover a further 16 family courts in England and Wales from 29 January 2024.

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Bradie Pell

The original pilot was launched on 30 January 2023 in Leeds, Cardiff and Carlisle for public law cases, and from May 2023 for private law cases.

The courts to which the transparency pilot has been extended are:

  • Derby
  • West Yorkshire
  • Kingston-upon-Hull
  • Nottingham
  • Manchester
  • Liverpool
  • Stoke
  • Birmingham
  • Central Family Court (London)
  • East London
  • West London
  • Luton
  • Guildford
  • Milton Keynes
  • Dorset
  • Truro

This extended pilot scheme applies only to public law at first, but it is expected that,  as with the first pilot in 2023, it will be expanded to include private law cases in due course.

It is subject to strict rules of anonymity.

Transparency is granted by a judge in the pilot court, who can make a ‘transparency order’ after the reporter or blogger requests to attend the court.  The judge can set out what can and cannot be reported. Details that cannot be reported include names and personal details of those involved or information that is likely to identify any child involved.

The judge can also determine that there should be no reporting on a case or allow a reporter to attend only certain parts of a hearing – providing a specific reason is given.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, said when announcing the extension:

“Extending the reporting pilot to family courts across the country is a huge step in the judiciary’s ongoing work to increase transparency and improve public confidence and understanding of the family justice system.

“We hope that in extending the pilot further we can continue to understand the impact that family court reporting has. I would like to urge the media to read the guidance and come to the family courts to see the vital and challenging work that is done there, and to report on the cases and issues that are so important.”

Bradie Pell, head of Graysons’ family law department said:

“I am pleased to hear that there will be further transparency in the family courts.  It will certainly raise awareness of the workings and complexities within the court process.  However, I do understand the legitimate fear that some families may have regarding anonymity and the potential sensationalising of their cases by the press.  It seems that during the first pilot – last year – cases have been reported sensibly and I hope that this will continue.”

Author: Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family department.

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