Monday 1 August 2011

Guide for journalists reporting the family courts

An official guide for journalists, judges and practitioners to explain the law on reporting the family courts has been published with the endorsement of the president of the Family Division Sir Nicholas Wall, the Society of Editors, and the Judicial College, the training body for judges.

In their preface, Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the Family Division and head of Family Justice and Bob Satchwell executive Director of the Society of Editors say: "There is no more difficult issue in family justice than the reporting of cases. There is a tension between concerns about 'secret justice' and legitimate expectations of privacy and confidentiality for the family. Both standpoints are valid, and the question is whether they are irreconcilable.

"Against this background, and under the wise tutelage of the Lord Chief Justice, a group of lawyers and journalists, including representatives from both the print and broadcast media, have got together to talk to each other. As part of these discussions, they commissioned a paper which would set out a statement of the current state of the law in this most complex area.

"The result is the document which follows this Preface. It has been drafted by two members of the bar, Adam Wolanski and Kate Wilson. It is an analysis of where we are at the moment: what we can and what we cannot do. It is, in our view, a substantial and very important piece of work.

"Its publication is all the more timely as the debate on increased transparency and public confidence in the family courts moves forward. It will serve to inform future consideration of this difficult and sensitive area, including the questions of access to and reporting of proceedings by the media, whilst maintaining the privacy of the families involved."

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