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New Guidance for Family Courts and Reporters

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Family court cases usually take place in private which has led to a perceived aura of mystery for those not routinely involved in family cases, which can lead to details often being misconceived.

The Family Procedure Rules 2010 do allow duly accredited representatives of news gathering and reporting organisations to attend such hearings, except for in certain circumstances.

Since October 2018, a pilot scheme extended the above rule to allow “duly authorised lawyers attending for journalistic, research or public legal educational purposes” (“legal bloggers”) to attend such hearings.  However, the right to attend hearings does not automatically grant the right to report on or publish details of the proceedings.

The new guidance (by the President of the Family Division) issued on 29th October 2019 encourages parties in family courts to go out of their way to cooperate with reporters seeking to cover proceedings. It also outlines the approach as to when and how applications should be made by reporters to vary or lift automatic reporting restrictions.

Those that seek transparency in family courts see the guidance as a positive step towards achieving that. It will undoubtedly assist with the practical difficulties reporters face when attending family cases and arguably set the groundwork to make reporting more commonplace.

You can read the final version of the report here