Keeping it in the Family

It is a shame that journalists are not taking the opportunity to report how family courts work, District Judge Lynne Roberts told the Today programme this morning. But nobody should be very surprised.When Jack Straw announced last December that accredited reporters would be allowed into the family courts form this springs, I said his proposals were “based on the assumption that there are enough journalists to cover the courts effectively”.

I added: “In these straightened times, this may be a rash assumption to make.”

In March, I reported a High Court judge saying journalists were mistaken if they thought they would be allowed to report full details of family cases when restrictions were lifted next week.

Sir Andrew McFarlane said the Times journalist Camilla Cavendish had given her readers the impression that the press would be able “to attend and freely report upon family court proceedings, and parents will be at liberty to discuss their case before a wide public audience”, he noted.

On Today this morning, Cavendish said it was difficult for reporters to get hold of the documents on which hearings were based and very difficult for journalists to discover what they would be permitted to report.

Bridget Prentice, the Justice Minister, said legislation would be needed to allow further reporting and that opening the courts was only the first step. Further discussions with the judiciary would be necessary. 

The prospects of legislation before the general election are clearly nil.

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