Media and the family court – Do the public need to know what’s happening?

For the first time, under a twelve-month pilot scheme running from January 2023 – January 2024, journalists may be able to report  on what happens in family courts in 3 selected areas of the UK Cardiff, Leeds and Carlisle. In his latest blog post, Jack Tonge looks at the law now and what the pilot scheme may offer. 


Current UK law forbids anything that happens in a family court from being reported unless a judge explicitly makes an order allowing it.

The rationale for keeping family court hearings behind closed doors is so that children’s rights to privacy are protected.

Under the pilot scheme journalists may report on what they witness within the family court arena, subject to ‘the principles of protection of the anonymity of any children involved unless the Judge orders otherwise’. Families can also be interviewed in respect of their cases so long as their anonymity is protected.

Under the pilot scheme journalists may be able to name local authorities, the lawyers involved, as well as experts appointed by the Court. However, unless ordered by the court, individual social workers will remain anonymous as with the identities of medical professionals treating children or any family member within the case.

It is important to note that the Articles of the ECHR still play an important part in governing the Court’s discretion. The Court is still under a duty to ensure the rights of the family and parties remain intact such has having a right to a fair trial (Article 6), whilst balancing the rights to a private and family life (Article 8) and the rights of the press, public and parties (Article 10). Therefore, the Court may depart from the transparency principle should the case deem it necessary.

Whilst it remains to be seen whether the pilot will bring an end to the often criticised ‘secrecy’  of the family court arena; it is clear that the Transparency Reporting Pilot is the start of implementing changes to impact the same.


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