Research into draft guidance for judges in anonymisation practices

28 FEB 2016

Dr Julia Brophy, Principal Investigator, Family Justice and Policy and Research Officer, has been awarded a grant by the Nuffield Foundation to develop draft guidance for judges in anonymisation practices. 

The research will draw on the ALC-NYAS evaluation of children judgments on Bailii, as well as guidance from other similar jurisdictions and consider anonymisation practices in official law reports.

Forthcoming research from Dr Julie Doughty at Cardiff, also funded by the Nuffield Foundation, which will analyse a range of factors influencing whether and how family court judgments are made public, is to be welcomed. It is vital that this field is further explored - not least for the children who are the subject of proceedings designed to protect their interests. In doing so there is a difficult balance to be struck between the interests of parties to cases and the wider public in greater transparency about decision making; and the need to protect the right to privacy.

The ALC-NYAS research, led by Dr Brophy, uniquely involved young people who have been in care in an evaluation of judgments on Bailii (see ‘Anonymisation practices in children judgments: time for a rethink' [2016] Fam Law 77). Despite current attempts at anonymisation, the research demonstrates how children can be identified from judgments (through specific details and ‘jigsaw identification') and run the risk of being subject to humiliating public exposure.

Concerns about the privacy and safety of children in family proceedings are highlighted by three reports between 2007 and 2014 (eg 'Irreconcilable differences? Young people, safeguarding and the "next steps" in "transparency"' [2015] Fam Law 1685).

The research is supported by a multi-disciplinary advisory group and will run from February to mid June 2016.

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