• April 19, 2024
 Law Society supports family court reporting pilot expansion

Law Society supports family court reporting pilot expansion

The Law Society of England and Wales have shared their thoughts on the family court reporting pilot (which originally started in three family courts in January 2023) being expanded to a further 16 courts across the country.

Nick Emmerson, President of the Law Society of England and Wales said:

“We reiterate our support for transparency and open justice, as it will help the public understand how the law works and how decisions are made.

Transparency in the family courts also allows the public to see how the vast majority of cases unfold, rather than just the big money cases. It shines a light on how the family courts work and the decisions they can make for families.

Provided it’s done in a sensitive manner, such reporting is a valuable tool in informing the public. It can also raise awareness of what the rule of law means and why it’s important.

We are pleased to see the pilot will not allow journalists to identify families. This sensitivity is important, particularly when children are involved.

Open reporting is one important step to improving our family courts – which are still facing severe backlogs – and we hope it will help further public understanding of these challenges.”

The courts that will be taking part in the pilot from 29th January are:

  • North West: Liverpool, Manchester
  • North East: West Yorkshire, Kingston-upon-Hull
  • Midlands: Nottingham, Stoke, Derby, Birmingham
  • London: Central Family Court, East London, West London
  • South West: Dorset, Truro
  • South East: Luton, Guildford, Milton Keynes

Kiran Beeharry, Partner in the Family Team at SA Law, agrees with Nick Emmerson that the extension is welcome news, so long as identifying factors remain confidential so that families do not feel exposed.

Kiran, said:

“The extension of the Reporting Pilot is welcome news, as opening up our courts to the media will give the public more knowledge in how family law proceedings are run, and encourage better practice.

It could also encourage parents to seek alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation, that are less expensive, time-consuming, and stressful than going to court (which could in turn tackle the backlog of cases in the family courts).

However, this may also feel exposing for families affected – and so it is vital to ensure that any identifying factors pertaining to a case remain confidential, particularly for any children involved in the process. It is also important lawyers reassure families that the decision to permit media access is at the judge’s discretion in each and every case, and that they can apply for transparency orders if they disagree with the judge’s decision.

Otherwise we could see families becoming even more reluctant to engage with the family courts, which is an issue the pilot seeks to address, not further perpetuate, by creating more transparency in the family system.”

Rebecca Morgan, Editor

1 Comment

  • I am particularly interested in the recent coverage of the proposal to allow journalists to be present at hearings in the Family Courts in certain areas of England.In my experience,both as a volunteer in London, assisting families drawn into this system and now,sadly,trying to support my daughter because of the machinations of her ex-partner and a mysogynistic judge,the term FAMILY court is a misnomer.
    Our local abomination is Teesside FC,which is not one of the courts selected yet for the pilot scheme.Much is made of the need to preserve anonymity. It seems to us that this is very much the choice of the judges and social workers,keeping the secrecy of these courts allows them the freedom to do whatever they wish, however abusive or negative and to threaten traumatised family members who dare to challenge them.I know that we would prefer to make public the trauma and the grief that has been inflicted upon our family,while respecting the wishes of families who don’t.We would like to publicise what we experienced and to help other families who have had their lives savaged by biased,prejudiced and may I say,inadequate judges.

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