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Transparency, Media Attendance and Reporting Transparency | Extract from Dictionary of Public Children Law 2024

8th May 2024

Authors: DJ Francis Cassidy, Gill Honeyman, Andrew Pack, Lucy Reed KC, & HHJ Christopher Simmonds

Read an exclusive extract from the latest addition to the Dictionary series, Dictionary of Public Children Law:

Transparency, Media Attendance and Reporting Transparency

The public generally has a legitimate, indeed a compelling, interest in knowing how the family courts exercise their jurisdiction.3 There is a particular public interest in the reporting and transparency of public law proceedings, because of the highly intrusive and life altering levels of state interference in family life that such proceedings involve and permit. There is a corresponding high level of private and sensitive information and a need for the proper protection of vulnerable parties, in particular the children at the centre of the case. See Confidentiality. The FPR and the President’s transparency reforms attempt to balance the tensions between these two important matters.

Reporting pilot

The position vis-à-vis publication and access to documents is modified in cases falling under the auspices of the President’s Reporting Pilot (operating throughout 2023 in Cardiff, Leeds and Carlisle). This pilot has three main strands:

• it gives reporters (legal bloggers and accredited media) access to specified documents (such as case summaries and skeleton arguments), which may be quoted on condition of anonymity;

• it allows family members to speak to reporters (where willing);

• it permits publication of information relating to the proceedings on condition of anonymity (though different arrangements may pertain individual cases). The information which may be published may come from what has been seen and heard in hearings attended by reporters or from the contents of documents provided to them or may arise from interview with the parties.

This effective reversal of the presumption against reporting is made possible through the issue of a transparency order at the point when a reporter first attends a hearing. This provides (save where modified to suit the particular needs of the case) that section 12 Administration of Justice Act 1960 is relaxed so as to permit reporting subject to specified restrictions to ensure anonymity of the family. The issue of a transparency order obviates the need for an application for permission to report to be made.

The pilot is expected to be rolled out to further courts in due course, but details of the pace and locations of the roll out or an 381 Transparency, Media Attendance and Reporting adjustments to the pilot are not available at the time of publication.

Dictionary public child law 2024 agreed cover

Dictionary of Public Children Law 2024

A unique reference guide to the key concepts, cases and practice of public children law.

The Dictionary of Public Children Law is a new addition to what is now a well-established series of Dictionaries published by Class Legal  

The Dictionary has a distinctive A–Z dictionary format, giving the reader a portable, potted summary of the most commonly confronted topics and issues in public children law, and providing ready access to the relevant case-law, statutory sources and points of practice.

The overarching aim was to create a quick, user-friendly reference guide, to be consulted as and when the need arises, whether at court or otherwise.