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Media Access to Family Courts and Article 8 Compliance

Date:5 FEB 2010

NUALA MOLE, The Aire Centre

In the summer of 2009 the Secretary of State for Justice indicated that a Bill, scheduled for the next parliamentary session, would include new provisions concerning the access of the media to the family justice system. Essentially these provisions would allow media representatives who attend proceedings to have a right of access to view documents filed in the proceedings, which they would then be able to use in their reports, thereby enabling full reporting of the 'substance' of family proceedings. Serious concerns were expressed about the diminished protection provided to the welfare and privacy of the child, the undermining of key ethical principles underscoring the work of professionals such as doctors and social workers and finally, the delay and cost which the system would have to bear.

Doubt was also expressed that the proposals would be compliant with Art 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, (ECHR) which places on States the obligation to respect a wide range of personal interests. The AIRE Centre was asked to prepare a short note in this context. The purpose of that article, based on this note, is to assess the compliance of any proposed provisions concerning media access and reporting with the interests of 'private and family life' safeguarded under Art 8 of the ECHR.

To read the rest of this article, see January [2010] Family Law journal.

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