A judge has struck a major blow for the reporting of private hearings at family courts across the country. He has rejected a claim that such proceedings attract a blanket ban on disclosure of material used in the hearings.
In a case where the competing rights to publicity and privacy under the Human Rights Act met head on, Mr Justice Munby made it clear at London’s High Court Family Division that in cases not involving children, there is no automatic bar on parties disclosing details of cases or court papers to the media.
He rejected a claim by international race horse owner and trainer Ivan Allan, whose former lover, Glory Clibbery, revealed details of an in-chambers family court battle, that there was a total ban on disclosure.
This was not "necessary in a democratic society" and there was no "pressing social need" for such a rule he said. The European Convention on Human Rights required a more "nuanced" approach, he said, where certain disclosures may be barred but others may be allowed, depending on the circumstances of the case.
The battle erupted after Clibbery lost her claim for possession of a flat, which she claimed she was entitled to after living with Allan for 15 years.
The case was heard in chambers but afterwards, in the words of Mr Justice Munby, Clibbery "reacted as a woman scorned". She gave her story to the Daily Mail which published a double-page spread containing quotations from Allan’s evidence The judge, while rejecting Allan’s claim, stressed that his judgment in no way affected the Family Division practice in cases concerning children.