More Family Court Cases to be Reported
The President of the Family Division has issued guidance on Transparency in Family Courts published on 16/1/14 to ‘immediately and significantly’ change the way cases are reported. There have been criticisms that the family courts are too secret and do not allow information to be disclosed to the public for them to understand the nature of these Court proceedings. The Administration of Justice Act 1960 states that unless the judgment is given in public or the Judge gives permission a family judgment may not be published. Anyone wishing to challenge this must make an application to Court for an Order.
In the new guidance the President sets out 2 types of case where a judgment may be disclosed;
1) Those when the Judge must ordinarily allow the judgment to be publicised, and
2) Those when the Judge may allow publication.
Cases which fall into 1) are those which there is a public interest in the case being reported. Substantial contested Finding of Fact Hearings where serious allegations are determined are in this category as are hearings on whether to make or refuse Final Care, Placement and Adoption orders. These judgments must ordinarily be published in anonymised form unless there is a compelling reason why these cases should not be published.
Cases in 2) are those which have been requested to be made public by the media and in these cases Judges may give permission for the cases to be reported.
These guidelines, effective from 3/2/14, are applicable to County Court and High Court Family judgments and will have an impact on the number of reported cases. The guidelines maintain discretion of the judges to decide whether to allow publication considering the need to keep children and their families anonymous.