One of the country’s senior family judges has called for an easing of restrictions governing reporting of family courts.
The request came from Lord Justice Wall, a former High Court Family Division judge and now an Appeal Court judge. As he gave the Hershman/ Levy memorial lecture in Birmingham he said that allowing the media to report family court proceedings would help overturn accusations and criticism that the family justice system was designed to be secretive.
He said: “I am in favour of giving the media access to family proceedings, provided that there are clear rules about what they can and cannot report, and the extent to which, if at all, they are to be at liberty when reporting the proceedings, to identify the parties and, in particular, the children concerned.”
He added: “I find it unacceptable that conscientious magistrates and judges, struggling to make difficult decisions in the best interests of children, should be accused of administering ‘secret justice’.
Confidentiality was imposed by Parliament, not the courts.” He said judges should, as a matter of routine, give family judgments in open court with the names kept anonymous if necessary so that the public could be informed. The issues which cases raised were important, not the personalities of the parties to the case. He believed there needed to be a dialogue between the judiciary and media before access was given to reporting family courts.
The judge’s comments came just days after a ruling in which the restrictions on naming children in family proceedings, once those proceedings have ended, were relaxed.