From January 30 2023, Leeds, Carlisle and Cardiff family courts are taking part in the Transparency Reporting Pilot, a ‘big culture change’ to the Family Division.
The pilot aims for family courts to become more transparent and for reporting of cases to be fact-based and balanced. It may help with the understanding of family law in general and increase confidence in these proceedings for the public.
Mrs Justice Lieven, liaison judge for the Midlands Circuit, said having journalists able to report on family cases ‘has a major impact on the open justice principle’ and journalists in court would ‘improve standards’.
People may be concerned that their previously private family matter will end up in the local, or national press. Not every case will be allowed to be reported. Adoption cases, standalone placement applications, HFEA applications, financial remedies and Family Law Act 1996/Domestic Abuse Act 2021 cases will not be included in the pilot.
Some cases about children can be reported; however, children’s identities must remain anonymous, and all reporting will have to ensure they are not able to be identified.
When asked if she thought the Transparency Reporting Pilot was a good idea, Bradie Pell, partner and head of the family department at Graysons, said:
“In some cases yes. Currently, journalists can only report on cases that are in the Court of Appeal. Cases only go to the Court of Appeal if one party states there is something seriously wrong with a decision of the first judge who heard the case. There must be legal grounds to proceed with a case to the Court of Appeal as such, it’s not everyday cases that end up in the media.
I often recoil at sensationalised headlines when a family law issue is reported and it then transpires the facts aren’t quite right or the actual law is ignored, which then results in a skewed presentation of a situation to the public. Allowing some reporting at the lower levels of the court system will hopefully allow a more balanced representation of family law and the principles that are applied day to day”.
Author: Bradie Pell, partner and head of Graysons’ family team.