The Newspaper Society has complained that the Children, Schools & Families Act 2010 will not succeed in delivering its aims of greater accountability, openness and transparency.
The body which represents the regional publishing industry made the claim as part of its submission to the Justice Select Committee’s inquiry into the operation of the family courts.
The NS claims the previous Government’s move to open up the family court to greater public scrutiny was warmly supported by the media but regretfully it has concluded that the Act will not achieve this aim.
‘In the final event the Act became the vehicle for a regime which not only ensured total anonymity for all those involved, thus completely defeating the objective of greater accountability of those involved in the system, but which also, if brought into effect in its present form, will arguably place greater restriction upon the media’s ability to report than is presently the case.”
The NS points out that the Act’s effect is apparently to make it a contempt of court to publish any article referring to family proceedings, even if derived entirely from material already in the public domain, and even if the parties were not identified, if the publication was not derived from an ‘authorised news report”.
As a result, the NS said, the ‘highly commendable’aim of opening up the courts was sidetracked by ‘the intense pressure exerted by some of those involved in the family justice system to build into the Bill extensive and automatic reporting restrictions.”
It concludes: ‘The intention of increased transparency has been lost in the Act’s drafting, that the aim of achieving privacy for the families has been conflated into a renewed regime of secrecy which – if the relevant provisions in the Act are brought into force unamended – will not only fail to deliver the desired public accountability but will represent a major reduction in what can now be lawfully published, and will actually further reduce public debate and discussion of the family justice system.”