Family courts have often been seen by the media as secretive and controversial. Judgments made in family courts and the Court of Protection concern some of the most vulnerable members of society and, therefore, in the past, it has been considered necessary by the courts to shield those involved from public scrutiny.
However, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division as at January 2014, believed this led to the public’s misunderstanding and mistrust of the work carried out in the courts.
The President therefore offered new guidance to enable the publication of a greater number of family court and Court of Protection judgments, so that there would be “greater transparency” within both courts.
He hoped that this would improve public understanding of court processes and help to develop confidence in the justice system.
Deciding which judgements are publishable
One of the first steps to aid greater transparency was to help judges distinguish which cases “must” be published (because it would be in the public interest) and the cases they “may” publish.
Judges must publish court judgments when it is in the public interest and there has been a request by a party or member of the media. A number of specific types of hearings have been identified as “in the public interest” and unless there are compelling reasons why the judgment cannot be published these must be made available.
Sir James noted that many judgments would need to be suitably anonymised to protect those involved, but the findings of the court should be a matter for public record.
In other cases, whenever a party or accredited member of the media applies for a publication order, the judge must take regard of all circumstances relevant to the European Convention on Human Rights – namely the right of individuals to a fair hearing, respect for private and family life, and freedom of expression – and the effect any publication would have on current or potential criminal proceedings.
Full details of the guidance can be accessed here.
Not all family cases go to court
If you are contemplating the commencement of divorce proceedings or you are in dispute with a former spouse regarding child contact or financial settlement, Healys family lawyers in Brighton are here to help.
We are also able to reassure you that not all family law cases will necessarily end up in court.
Whenever possible, we strive to ensure that family disputes are settled without the need for court hearings, and when an appearance before a judge is unavoidable we will always be on hand to represent you, offering pragmatic and straightforward advice to protect your best interests.
To talk to a family lawyer at Healys in Brighton or London please call our offices on 01273 685 888 or 020 7822 4000, respectively. We are happy to discuss your circumstances on a no-obligation basis, leaving you free to decide whether you wish to instruct our family and matrimonial team to act for you.