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What do you Need to Know about the Transparency Pilot in Family Courts?

divorce lawyer Chesterfield transparency pilot family courtsAs matrimonial solicitors, the newly launched Transparency Pilot is an interesting programme that could have a major impact upon the family courts if rolled out across the UK. Aimed at enhancing public confidence in family court through increased transparency, the pilot will provide the media and the public with greater access to information about court proceedings.

What is the Transparency Pilot?

Introduced in January 2023 and currently being trialled in 3 designated courts across the country, the Transparency Pilot is designed to test the impact of greater transparency in family court proceedings, with a view to potentially extending the changes across the whole of the system. Under the pilot, certain court hearings will be open to the public and the media, including cases involving domestic abuse, the care and welfare of children, and other serious issues.

The pilot essentially allows reporters including accredited journalists and legal bloggers to both attend and report on court hearings relating to arrangements for children, so long as they maintain the anonymity of the parties and children. Naturally this will allow for the publication of judgments in these cases, which were previously only available to parties involved in the case. Reporters’ access is currently being tested to ensure that it can be done safely and with minimal disruption to those involved in the cases and the courts.

Will Cases be Anonymous?

Yes, the cases reported on will still be anonymised. No one is allowed to name or take photos of the family members, although in some cases it may be possible for you to recognise your case based on specific details. Crucially though, the aim is to make sure that others cannot identify your case by any of the facts reported.

It's been frequently debated over the years as to whether there should be more transparency in the family courts but there are major factors in play here that have contributed to the slow pace of change in this area of the law. Although there may be a need to boost public trust in the family court, there’s also the valid argument of the need to maintain confidentiality and privacy for those who use the family court to resolve family disputes.

Maintaining Privacy

Under the rules, a judge will set out what can and cannot be reported by making a “transparency order”. This would, therefore, allow journalists, reporters, and legal bloggers to enter family court hearings, watch the hearing unfold, and then report what happens, as well as allow them to look at certain documents from the case. It would also allow those involved in the cases to talk to journalists, reporters, and legal bloggers about their own case.

However, it’s important to stress that members of the public or person with an interest in your case would not be allowed to come to hearings under the guise of being a journalist as they would either need to show a UK Press Card, or prove that they are a lawyer who is not involved in the case but is authorised to attend hearings.

The pilot will operate for one year in 3 courts; Cardiff, Carlisle, and Leeds, and covers both public law and private law children matters, that is, those involving the state, such as care proceedings, as well as disputes between parents about issues such as where a child should live and contact arrangements. However, there is a list of details regarding cases that cannot generally be reported, including the details of any alleged sexual abuse, and it will still be a criminal offence to publish information that could identify the children involved. In addition, a judge can order that there should be no reporting in a particular case. 

Here at Vines Legal, we have years of experience in helping our clients through the process of separation and divorce. If you are considering a separation, or going through a divorce, and want to ensure that arrangements regarding finances, property, and your children are concluded in the most efficient way, please contact us on 01246 555610 for a free initial consultation. We’d be happy to explain all of the options available to you in a friendly, professional manner.

By Vines Legal on 30 May 2023, 13:34 PM

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