The media are to be granted access to family court hearings in an effort to provide reassurance that judgements are fair. Currently decisions are made behind closed doors to protect the privacy of the people - particularly the children – involved.
An announcement from the justice ministry is expected within the next couple of months. It is believed that reporters will be granted access to family courts but that the identity of children will continue to be protected.
Expectations of reform have arisen following comments made by Justice Secretary Jack Straw at last month’s Labour Conference. In his speech he said: “In the very sensitive area of the family courts, I think we can shed more light whilst preserving the imperative of the welfare of the child.”
The move would seek to address criticism that children are taken from their parents into care on the basis of unreliable evidence from social workers. In an interview with The Times Sir Mark Potter has backed the call for greater transparency but in the belief that it would dispel such “myths and inaccuracies.”
Suzanne Kingston (right), Head of Family Law at Dawsons LLP
, says that improved transparency would be a welcome change. “I think it is important for people involved in Family Law cases to fully understand the reasons why a Judge has made a particular decision,” she says. “As always, it is important that the right balance is struck between ensuring transparency in family cases whilst at the same time protecting the privacy of families and in particular children.”