Young people who have been through the care system do not want increased media access to family courts, a study suggests.
Legal charity the National Youth Advocacy Service and the Association of Lawyers for Children interviewed 11 people aged between 16 and 25 who had been through the care system. They were asked about plans to increase transparency in the family courts.
All 11 were opposed to greater media attendance at family court hearings.
Currently, approved journalists can attend some family hearings but there are stringent restrictions on what they can report. Under rules currently being considered by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, however, restrictions on press reporting could be eased and members of the public could also be allowed to attend hearings.
The 11 respondents, however, believed that:
“…the family court is not a public arena and [the plan] represents a failure of parliament to consider and take seriously the views, needs and long-term welfare of the children concerned.”
Greater involvement by the media was not the right way to increase public knowledge of the family courts, the survey respondents claimed. Instead they proposed “an independent, accountable agency”.
The courts should be very careful to consider the views and long-term welfare of children involved in family law cases when media reporting was to be allowed, the respondents added. They stressed the importance of anonymity for such children, who already faced emotional challenges. Identification could lead to depression, self-harm, public humiliation and even suicide.
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