At Researching Reform, we are strong advocates of a much more transparent family justice system, notwithstanding the fact that we view a balance between transparency and child welfare as they key to ensuring children are protected where necessary, and so the latest Guidance from The President of The Family Division, James Munby, makes for an interesting read on the matter. It focuses on media reporting of family law cases.

Sir Munby is very keen to make the courts more open in this respect and has always been a big voice for reform in this area. His Guidance Note reiterates this.

It’s well worth a gander, and we’d love to hear what you think. The draft Practice Guidance is a baby step – Munby himself makes the point that he wishes to go steady and slow on the matter of transparency, but one area where publicised judgments will now be made as of right, can be found at Number 16 of the Practice Guidance, and states the following:

In cases brought by local authorities under Part 4 of the Children Act 1989 or
under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and cases involving the personal welfare jurisdiction of either the High Court or the Court of Protection, where the judgment relates to the making or refusal of:
(i) any emergency protection order, contested interim supervision order,
contested interim care order, supervision order, care order, placement
order or adoption order or any order for the discharge of any such
(ii) any order authorising a change of the placement of an adult from one
with a family member to a home;
(iii) any order arguably involving a deprivation of liberty;
(iv) any order involving the giving or withholding of significant medical
treatment; or
(v) any order involving a restraint on publication of information relating to
the proceedings,
the starting point from now on is that the judgment should be published unless there are compelling reasons why it should not.

There are other, very interesting new developments in the Guidance too which may have the effect of increasing the volume of publicised judgments, but with some discretion being left to the judges as to whether a case should be published or not, there may be some wrangles in court over whether a judge has chosen not to publish, for the wrong reasons, shall we say.

For those who wish to view the 2011 content linked up on the Guidance Note, we’ve added the correct link for you here, as it does not seem to work on the Note itself.