Guidance urging the routine publication of family court judgements is applied inconsistently across the country, a study has found.
Research by the School of Law and Politics at Cardiff University found “patchy” application of the 2014 guidance, which was issued by Family Division President Sir James Munby in response to allegations of secrecy and closed door justice frequently made by elements of the press.
The guidance stipulated that judgements be published as frequently as possible on publicly accessible legal webste Bailii.org, fully anonymised where necessary (for example, in cases involving children), in order to encouragea greater understanding of the family law system amongst the public and media.
The School of Law and Politics was prompted to examine tbe results following concerns from some that only a limited number of judgements were appearing on the site and those that did were sometimes poorly anonymised.
The researchers found that in the two years following the President’s guidance, only 27 judges and 12 courts submitted in excess of ten cases to Bailii.org. in addition, there were signficant regional variations, with some areas publishing more judgements than others.
Lead researcher Dr Julie Doughty said these variations could result in confusion.
“The judgments now published provide more information about the role of the family courts than was available prior to the guidance, but there are inconsistences in the way courts have responded which can present a confusing and not necessarily representative picture of the system as a whole.”
The report was entitled Transparency through publication of family court judgments. Read it here.