Family Court Transparency Review: What will it mean for my case?
The Family Court Transparency Review could lead to more publicity around cases heard in the Family Court. Elizabeth Ellis, Paralegal in Coodes Solicitors’ Family team, explains the planned changes and what they will mean for our clients.
In October 2021, Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Court in England and Wales, called for “a major shift in culture”. The reason for the change was to increase transparency and public confidence in the system.
Much of the work of the Family Court is conducted in private. Only individuals involved in a case, their legal representatives, and experts and third parties to the case are present at hearings.
To move to greater transparency, Sir Andrew has suggested changes, which will reform the automatic statutory reporting restrictions on family proceedings (set down in Section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960) . This would be replaced with a reporting system similar to that seen within the Criminal Justice System.
What changes are recommended in the Family Court Transparency Review?
The new reporting system would include:
- Accredited media representatives being permitted to attend hearings. These journalists would have access to documents filed by the parties to the proceedings and could report on the outcome of a case.
- Judgments being publicised. All details could be included, other than the names of the children and families and any information that identifies them.
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Why are the changes being made?
These recommendations are designed to increase public confidence in the legal system and the work of the Family Court. The changes will result in more press coverage on the decisions being made by the Family Court.
While the changes have broadly been welcomed, some people have raised concerns about the recommendations in the Transparency Review.
Some legal experts have warned it has the potential to compromise confidentiality in disputes of a deeply personal nature. Others within the profession hold the view that the steps will increase public confidence in the system. Sir Andrew, however, is clear that confidentiality does not need to be compromised in the interests of transparency and that the Court system can maintain both principals.
What does it mean for my case?
If your case is due to be heard in the Family Court, you may understandably be concerned about personal information being published.
We are still waiting for confirmation of the roll-out of the changes outlined in the Transparency Review. That means we do not yet know when the new rules will be introduced.
However, you should be reassured that, when the changes come in, there will be very clear rules and restrictions on reporting to maintain anonymity. Details of the private lives of everyone involved will remain confidential.
While Sir Andrew’s reforms will take time to be fully implemented it is hoped these reforms will result in greater public scrutiny and understanding of the work of the Family Court.
For more information or advice on these issues, please contact Elizabeth Ellis in Family at Coodes Solicitors on 01872 246207 or email@example.com.