Openness in Family Court Proceedings
There is a growing trend for there to be more openness in family court proceedings. This is as a result of campaigning by various newspapers and organisations to make the family courts more accountable, to the general public, and transparent.
The problem with greater transparency in family proceedings is that very often the family courts deal with very confidential information. And the boys (now men) involved in the Jamie Bulger case were given different identities to prevent reprisals when they were released from prison.
Proceedings involving children are usually held in private and any judgments that are published use different initials to make sure that in particular the children involved in the case cannot be identified at all. Occasionally a judge hearing a case will allow limited reporting. In a recent child sex exploitation case, the Judge hearing the case decided that the identities of the 10 men involved should be released and was widely reported. The Daily Mail welcomed the decision with the headline “Finally, a Judge with bollocks”.
In financial remedy cases, the Court usually starts on the basis of not allowing the media to report a case, but then as appropriate, will consider any application for press reporting. The reporting of a case can be controlled by the Judge through Reporting Restriction Orders.
However there may be a move in the future to Judges hearing financial remedy cases in open Court – it is already happening in one Court – which means that any application for a Reporting Restriction Order would have to be made at the start of the case to prevent reporting by the media and broadcast news.
The London Courts usually have the problem of controlling reporting because high net worth and complicated cases are heard in the High Court. London is seen as the divorce capital of the world so also attracts international cases and Brexit will not affect this.
It is more and more difficult with the internet and use of google search to ensure that confidentiality is maintained – if that is the Court’s decision. A judgment has to be examined carefully to make sure that there is not a detail or details that through use of the internet that could result in a person involved being identified.
Most lawyers think that confidentiality should be maintained – by a straw poll taken at the Resolution Conference 2017.
Confidentiality the golden rule for all types of dispute resolution – mediation, collaborative law and family arbitration. And is a reason why dispute resolution should be considered – and has been used by people in the public eye to avoid widespread reporting of their private lives.
Harney and Wells have lawyers qualified in all aspects of dispute resolution – mediation, collaborative law, and arbitration. So if you want to avoid your face in the papers contact us!