In another significant step towards enhancing transparency within the family justice system, the judiciary has announced the expansion of the transparency reporting pilot.
Described as a ‘huge step,’ this initiative aims to provide insight into family court proceedings.
The transparency implementation group reporting pilot, which began in the family courts of Leeds, Cardiff, and Carlisle in January 2023, is set to expand to 16 additional courts across England, including Liverpool, Dorset, and Milton Keynes starting January 29th 2024.
2024 Expansion of Family Court Transparency Pilot
Under this ongoing pilot, accredited media and legal bloggers can report on the proceedings, subject to strict rules of anonymity. Judges presiding over the courts involved in the pilot will issue transparency orders outlining what information can and cannot be reported.
The judiciary emphasises that this reporting initiative is being carefully piloted to ensure it can be conducted safely and with minimal disruption to those involved in the cases and the functioning of the courts.
Sir Andrew McFarlane, Family Division president, hailed the extension as a continuation of the ‘pioneering year of reporting’. He expressed the judiciary’s commitment to increasing transparency, improving public confidence, and fostering a better understanding of the family justice system.
Sir McFarlane invited members of the media to familiarise themselves with the provided guidance and visit family courts to witness the vital and challenging work undertaken in these settings.
Understanding the impact of family court reporting
The announcement has garnered positive reactions from legal professionals, with many viewing open reporting as a crucial step in addressing the challenges faced by family courts, such as backlogs, and hopes it will contribute to public understanding.
Jake Mitchell, Leeds-based Stowe family lawyer echoed this “One of the biggest barriers to people seeking help with their legal issues is the amount of misinformation which is readily available and repeated.”
Although some have raised concerns that journalist presence could cause potential discomfort to people going through the family courts, its hoped that journalists will use their newfound rights to raise public awareness of the workings of financial remedy courts and the strain they face due to under-funding.
Locations included in the expansion of the Transparency Pilot
The 16 courts participating in the pilot include Liverpool, Manchester, West Yorkshire, Kingston-upon-Hull, Nottingham, Stoke, Derby, Birmingham, Central Family Court, East London, West London, Dorset, Truro, Luton, Guildford, and Milton Keynes.
Jake Mitchel continued “My colleagues and I welcome the expansion of transparency in the family courts. The more the public knows what goes on inside a court room, the greater the trust and confidence will be and that should lead to the right result for more people.”