Transparency is edging closer. After the Childrens Schools and Families Act 2010 fiasco (provisions reforming privacy in family proceedings which were much criticised, never brought into force and finally repealed by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012), we’ve been left with the small step introduced in 2010 that was allowing reporters to sit in – but not report. Not that this stopped them reporting. Or complaining about not being able to report the things they had reported.
But as irritating and lopsided as some reports were, they did always have a valid point of principle : transparency.
Sir Nicholas Wall, in his time as President, was increasingly keen on the publication of judgments, and his replacement Sir James Munby has already let it be known that significant changes are on the drawing board, announcement expected soon. I imagine that, short of an announcement that there will be primary legislation (which would be for someone in Government rather than the judiciary to announce), this can be little more than a Practice Direction, President’s Guidance or possibly some amendment to the FPR 2010, either of which would probably bear upon the appropriate exercise of discretion vis a vis reporters and publication of information, rather than complete removal the various protections upon privacy that span numerous pieces of primary legislation. But whatever it is, change is afoot and it is probably going to alter the way we work. We’re getting used to change around here.
In a separate but related development, this week it is reported in the Telegraph that Mostyn J has lifted an injunction prohibiting the reporting of proceedings in which Telegraph journalist Christopher Booker had taken an interest. Indeed, according to the Telegraph, Booker had already published a number of items referring to the case before the specific injunction was imposed. Booker is unsurprisingly bombastic. At present the judgment is not apparently on BAILII and it is unclear which of Booker’s many cause celebres (how does one pluralise that phrase?) is now clear for take off (it is referred to in this week’s column as Telegraph as LB Sutton v M and appears to be the case reported here). (If any reader of this blog can correctly identify the case and judgment could you post it in the comment thread below or email me and I will amend / update?)
It seems highly likely that the judgment regarding the press injunction in this case will be published in due course, if not the substantive judgment(s). It will of course only be at that stage that the public and the legal community are properly able to assess whether the reporting was and is as accurate as Booker promised Mostyn it would be, and can form a view about its journalistic balance (the “tendentious” quality of his reporting is something that he has been criticised for before by the judiciary).