Welcome to another week, and another question.
The Deputy Children’s Commissioner Sue Berelowitz caused outrage amongst lawyers, judges and social workers last week by claiming that opening up the family courts would lead to child suicides.
Sue’s assertion stems from the point of view that allowing media reporting of family cases where children are involved would inevitably lead to the identification of those children and that children themselves would feel terribly vulnerable knowing their cases had been made public, even if attempts had been made to conceal their identities. There is some support for this view. A recent report which asked a sample of children how they felt about media reporting of their cases indicated a strong desire to oppose such reporting amidst fears of sensationalism and breaches of privacy.
But the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, is a strong advocate of more reporting on family cases, and his drive to open up the courts is well documented. Munby’s point of view stems from the belief that in a democratic society, family courts should be open to scrutiny and that there is therefore a public interest principle at play.
Our question this week, then, is this. Can we reconcile the imperative to protect our children in family cases with greater transparency inside our family courts?