A consultation launched by the Family Procedure Rule Committee wants to look at people’s views on legal bloggers attending family court hearings.
The Committee is headed up by the President of the Family Division Andrew McFarlane, and consists of seven additional judges, one lay magistrate, one justices’ clerk, two barristers, two solicitors and a Cafcass officer.
The consultation has been launched two years after a pilot allowing bloggers into family courts was implemented, and aims to get a better understanding of how people feel about legal bloggers entering these courts and reporting on children proceedings.
The pilot was designed after several Presidents of the Family Division acknowledged a need to increase transparency inside the family courts. The consultation document echoes that same sentiment and says, “where appropriate and possible, there is need to increase transparency in the family court to improve public understanding of the court system. Few judgments are made available to the public and the idea behind giving access to legal bloggers is to allow increased openness whilst maintaining anonymity.”
The consultation invites responses to the following four questions:
Do you think accredited legal bloggers should be permitted in to attend hearings in family proceedings?
Are there any restrictions that should be put on them alongside any existing restrictions?
Under the pilot scheme, the blogger must show evidence that they belong to a professional legal group and sign a declaration that attendance is for “journalistic, research or public legal educational purposes”. Do you think that this provides the necessary safeguards to protect the needs of children and families who are parties to, or subject of, family proceedings?
The need to protect the individual who is the party to, or subject of, proceedings, even from inadvertent reporting on social media is paramount. Do you think that the proposals in place under the pilot go far enough in doing so and have you any concerns or suggestions for improving this area?
Submissions should be sent to Simon Qasim at FPRCSecretariat@justice.gsi.gov, or by post at the address below, by 5pm on Friday 20 April 2020:
Family Justice Policy
Post Point 7.17
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
You can access the consultation document here.
The Committee’s About Us page is also worth a read, as it contains the Committee’s agendas, members’ interests and Minutes of its meetings.