Jack Straw to open family courts further

09 JUL 2009

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, is expected to announce that the media will be given greater access to family court cases, including those relating to adoption. The reforms could lead to details of child abuse allegations being revealed and in newspapers, although identities would still be protected.

In an interview with The Times today, Mr Straw said he was making the changes to the Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children's Bill, due to come into effect in the autumn.

Mr Straw said: "The first change was to allow the media into the courts and that came into force at the end of April. The second change relates to the concerns that have been expressed that although journalists can report the gist of proceedings they cannot report the substance without being in contempt of court."

Many judges are against the opening up adoption proceedings, arguing that adoptions are a special case. "To some degree there is a special case and to some degree there isn't," Mr Straw said.

He added: "What I want, without disclosing the identity of the parties or gratuitously disclosing family secrets where there is no public interest, is to see a light shone on these proceedings because I think that it is in the public interest for that to happen. There is no part of the judicial system that should be private. Confidence in the system suffers if proceedings entirely take place behind closed doors."

Mr Straw accepted there were "genuine concerns that can't be dismissed" about protecting the identity of parties and about the disclosure of documents containing "sometimes lurid detail of family secrets".

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