The present system in the Family Courts whereby a journalist may attend any hearing but may not always report what they observe, is not sustainable. I have reached the conclusion that there needs to be a major shift in culture and process to increase the transparency in a number of respects. The conclusions that I have reached, following an extensive review, are published today. The review has focused upon the dual goals of enhancing public confidence in the Family Justice system, whilst at the same time maintaining the anonymity of those families and children who turn to it for protection. These twin principles of confidence and confidentiality are not, in my view, mutually exclusive and it is possible to achieve both goals.
In addition to a range of ancillary proposals, my main conclusion is that the time has come for accredited media representatives to be able, not only to attend hearings, but to report publicly on what they see and hear. Any reporting must, however, be subject to very clear rules to maintain the anonymity of children and families, and to keep confidential intimate details of their private lives.
I now intend to lead the process of implementing these changes, which will involve a number of initiatives. Any change in the court process will require the approval of the Family Procedure Rules Committee and Ministry of Justice ministers. Insofar as there is a need to amend statute law, this is, of course, a matter entirely for Parliament and not the judiciary.
Sir Andrew McFarlane
President of the Family Division