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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

18 AUG 2009

Media access to reports in family cases considered

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is considering providing media with access to reports and papers filed in family proceedings.

The proposals were revealed at a Family Justice Council (FJC) meeting on 6 July 2009 when a representative from the MoJ attended to inform the Council of the progress since the opening of the family courts to the media in April.

The representative said that the current position was that the media were able to attend but were able to report very few cases: the Secretary of State was keen to see the position changed so that, as in the Youth Courts, the press were able to report the substance of cases. Accordingly a provision had been made for enabling legislation to be included in the Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children Bill.

In addition it was disclosed that the MoJ planned to amend s 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 - which limits publication of information concerning children, during and after proceedings, held in private - but there would be no identification of parties and that there was no suggestion that judicial discretion would be removed.

Members of the Council were shocked by the proposals and raised a number of concerns, including compatibility with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

Medical experts on the Council said that providing media access to medical reports could conflict with their regulatory bodies and there could also be issues about doctor-patient confidentiality.

An information paper was subsequently supplied to the President and to the Family Procedure Rule Committee which expressed similar concerns and the proposed changes were withdrawn for further consideration.

To read more on this, see the news item The FJC and the Media in September [2009] Fam Law 780.

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