Consultation re: Openness in Family Courts

Just a reminder that the Ministry of Justice consultation on the revised proposals regarding openness in family courts closes on 1 October. So for those of you who want to respond with your views on whether or not the government is proposing the right way forward – the clock is ticking.

In summary, initial proposals to open the family courts to the media have been shelved, the proposals are now more modest and there will be no automatic right of access to the courts by the media, although it will be considered on a case by case basis. Lord Falconer’s press release sounds not a little fudgy to me, but although I have not yet read the consultation paper in full, the fuller document does appear to contain some sensible ideas. These include: publishing the judgment anonymously online where a case is of public interest, and ensuring that all parties are given written reasons or a judgment to take from court with them (and that a child can request a copy when he is older). Whether these ideas will be sufficient to satisfy everyone with concerns about transparency I very much doubt. There are recent articles from colleagues at the Bar (Counsel Magazine, New Law Journal) which suggest that even at the bar there are mixed feelings (although one of the articles I have read is from a media lawyer rather than a family lawyer, whose perspective may be rather different).

One thought on “Consultation re: Openness in Family Courts

  1. The scope of this new consultation is so limited that one has to wonder what its real point is. The four questions are misleading and seem designed to seal up the courts even tighter; it is necessary to read between the lines. Question 4, for example, is concerned with closing the loophole which Munby exposed in Clayton v Clayton.

    Falconer’s response to the earlier consultation was so utterly dishonest (see Camilla Cavendish in the Times for exmple) that many – I for one – will not again believe that contributing to these consultations can be worthwhile. the government has made up its mind, and will not be swayed by public opinion. Whether Jack Straw is prepared to lie to the same extent as Falconer remains to be seen.

    Incidentally, I take the same view of the current consultation on domestic violence, which closes at the end of October (I think) but to which we may contribute.

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