The number of published family law judgments which are made available to the public has decreased since 2015, but the media is picking up the slack, and bringing more cases to an international audience.
Research by family law blogger John Bolch suggests that the number of published judgments for family law cases are diminishing year-on-year, after an initial spike in publications which took place shortly after guidance was issued on transparency in 2014 by the then President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby.
According to John, there were 734 published judgments in 2013, 773 published judgments in 2014, 575 in 2016, 501 in 2017, 473 in 2018, and 444 in 2019 so far.
In his post, John claims that the decrease in published family law judgments is down to a lack of enthusiasm by the judiciary, and that the “experiment” as he puts it, has failed. He also takes the view that the judgments have not helped the public to understand the issues or the family courts any better, because the public continues to view the system sceptically.
We do not agree with any of this logic.
The number of judgments has dropped because judges don’t have the time to write them, and perhaps, because judges might not always be sure that their reasoning is sound.
The public have engaged deeply with these cases and their scepticism remains, and we would say has increased because they have come to the conclusion, like those of us campaigning for change, that the system is not fit for purpose.
And while judges may not be able to write judgments for the public, both national and international media have increased their reporting of family law related cases, with some even dedicating entire sections to the subject, like The Independent, The Guardian and The Law Gazette.
The Transparency Guidance paved the way for insight into the family courts and allowed the world to see how judgments were made. Most importantly, it gave journalists the ability to report on stories that mattered.
That appetite for reporting has not waned, with family cases often making the headlines. As children continue to take center stage in politics, law and human rights, that appetite is only set to increase.
Many thanks to Dana for alerting us to John’s post.