Family courts move condemned as Government “volte face” by NS

The Newspaper Society has said it is ‘extremely disappointed’about Government proposals to create ‘greater transparency’in the family courts.

This morning the Ministry of Justice proposed the development of an online ‘hub’to provide general information about the various tiers of a family court, said that more information would be made available for people involved in proceedings and that, where there is a clear public interest, a transcript or decision summary of proceedings will be published.

The Government has claimed the moves would mean greater transparency, but according to the NS they would be a step back from current media rights to cover the family courts.

It said that the proposals include: removal of existing rights for the media to attend family proceedings in magistrates courts, with attendance at any family proceedings now to be at the discretion of the court, a continuing ban on those involved in family proceedings releasing information to the public or the media, provision for the court itself to publish details of judgments etc. only if these are deemed to be ‘in the public interest”.

In a statement the NS said: ‘Given that the initial proposal to allow media access as of right was a Government initiative, this volte face is all the more of concern.

‘We and all media organisations involved in this debate made quite clear, repeatedly, that we accepted that along with universal access must go provision for the courts to impose reporting restrictions, particularly to protect children.

‘This seems to have been lost sight of. We do not believe that the new proposals adequately reflect the need to balance the public interest in the proper administration of justice with private interests, and the interests of privacy along with the public interest in Freedom of Information and fair judicial process.’

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