Transparency in the Family Courts Report

The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has published a report providing his conclusions following a review of the provisions on transparency in the family courts.

He outlines that “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.” 

There has been much debate around the issues of privacy rights in the family courts verses public interest. Achieving transparency and open justice within the family courts has been an on going consideration and concern. The tensions lie between confidentiality of family law proceedings in protecting fundamental privacy rights of those individuals participating in family proceedings, ensuring full engagement in the process: and conversely concerns of a lack of meaningful transparency around the work of the family courts leading to questions of trust and views that miscarriages of justice are more likely to occur

There have been a number of organisations highlighting these issues and working to promote transparency.

The “National Family Justice Observatory” (a research body funded by the Nuffield Foundation) has shed light on the working of the Family Court.

Similarly “The Transparency Project” have raised the profile of transparency issues, looking at ways transparency can be appropriately achieved. Please read their Blog on their review of the President of the Family Divisions Report. Within this blog they have broken down concrete proposals for reform into a bulleted list which is easy to read and understand.