Exciting developments are underway in the realm of family justice Opening Family Courts to Accredited Journalists

On January 29, 2024, the initial pilot scheme will be extended, and sixteen more family courts will be opened up to accredited members of the press, marking a shift in the transparency and accessibility of the family justice system.

Under the new scheme, accredited journalists will have the opportunity to report on any family court proceedings. This means they can provide detailed accounts of what transpires during these sensitive cases, including quoting family members. However, this is subject to the parties remaining anonymous. This condition is crucial to protecting the privacy and dignity of those who find themselves before the family court.

Why is this scheme being implemented?

The aim of this pilot scheme is to promote openness and allow the public access to information about the functioning of the family justice system while also safeguarding the identities of the individuals involved. This represents a significant shift from the traditionally closed nature of family court proceedings.

Opening up these proceedings to accredited journalists ensures that the public can gain a better understanding of how family courts operate, the issues they handle, and the decisions that are made. This transparency can help dispel misconceptions and promote confidence in the justice system.

What do the courts think about this scheme?

As you can imagine, family courts may not be pleased with this new change; however, they will need to adapt to this new level of scrutiny.

Judges and court staff must ensure that proceedings are conducted in a manner that upholds the law and respects the privacy of those involved. There will be an increased need for sensitivity and care in handling cases.

Benefits and challenges of this scheme

Potential benefits of this scheme may be that it can help identify any shortcomings in the system, improve the quality of court decisions, and encourage a higher level of professionalism.

Despite these benefits, there are challenges to consider. Maintaining the anonymity of family members is paramount, and any breach could have severe consequences.

There is also a need to ensure that reporting remains responsible and unbiased, avoiding sensationalism or harm to vulnerable individuals. Opening up family courts to accredited journalists represents a significant step towards transparency and accountability in the UK’s family justice system.

While it poses challenges to maintaining privacy and responsible reporting, it also offers the opportunity to improve the functioning of family courts and provide the public with a better understanding of this crucial aspect of the legal system.

Striking the right balance between openness and privacy will be key to the success of this initiative.

Get in touch

Ana Maria Munteanu is a family solicitor working with the Family Department at Hansells Solicitors.

If you would like to discuss this topic or any family-related issues with Ana, you can reach her at: Ana-mariamunteanu@hansells.co.uk