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New pilot FPR 2010, PD 36J – attendance at court of 'legal bloggers'

Date:27 AUG 2018
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Family analysis: A pilot Practice Direction 36J comes into force on 1 October 2018 to allow certain lawyers to attend family proceedings in the Family Court and Family Division of the High Court with a view to reporting on proceedings. These persons are colloquially described as ‘legal bloggers’. The pilot will run for nine months and concludes on 30 June 2019.

Practice Direction 36J

What is the purposes of the pilot scheme?

Family Procedure Rules 2010 (FPR 2010), SI 2010/2955, 36.2 sets up the pilot scheme. The pilot scheme applies in relation to any proceedings to which FPR 2010, SI 2010/2955, 27.11 (attendance at private hearings) applies.

The purpose of the pilot scheme is to assess the use of new practices and procedures to allow for attendance at hearings in private by certain lawyers with a view to their being able to report on proceedings (as legal bloggers), in addition to duly accredited representatives of news gathering and reporting organisations.
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Who will be eligible within FPR 2010, PD 36J?

There are three categories of lawyers eligible within the pilot FPR 2010, PD 36J, namely a lawyer:
  • holding a valid practising certificate;
  • working for a Higher Education institution; or
  • working for an educational charity.

What evidence will be required from legal bloggers?

All legal bloggers will be required to provide evidence of their eligibility within the pilot scheme, as well as photo identification on the day of the hearing, to enable court staff, or if necessary the court itself, to verify that they are authorised lawyers.

Court staff will check the evidence produced and notify the court of the legal bloggers’ attendance at court. The judge may also request production of the evidence in the courtroom.

FPR 2010, PD 36J, para 5.1 sets out the evidence required from legal bloggers. The following forms of identification provide sufficient information, and production of such identification will be both necessary and sufficient to demonstrate that the lawyer is authorised within the meaning of FPR 2010, SI 2010/2955, 27.11(7)(b)(i), (ii) and (iii) respectively:
  • a current practising certificate accompanied by picture identification of the lawyer and a signed written statement by the lawyer;
  • confirmation on headed notepaper from the relevant Higher Education institution (or Law School, faculty or department of that institution) of the lawyer’s position and qualification, accompanied by picture identification of the lawyer and a signed written statement by the lawyer;
  • confirmation on headed notepaper from the relevant registered educational charity (specifying the registered charity number) of the lawyer’s position and qualification, accompanied by picture identification of the lawyer and a signed written statement by the lawyer.

In each case the signed written statement by the lawyer must:
  • confirm that the lawyer’s attendance is for journalistic, research or public legal educational purposes and that the lawyer has no personal interest in the proceedings and that they are not attending in the capacity of agent or instructed lawyer for any client; and
  • confirm that the lawyer is aware of and will abide by any restrictions on publication, whether arising by operation of law (for example under section 97 of the Children Act 1989 (ChA 1989) and section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 (AJA 1960)) or imposed by order of the court, which follow from the proceedings being in private.

To facilitate this, two new forms have been prepared which will be available from 1 October 2018:
  • Form FP301 notice of attendance of duly authorised lawyer—to provide the written statement required from the lawyer, any legal blogger eligible within FPR 2010, PD 36J wishing to attend court will need to ensure they have sufficient copies of the form for each hearing they wish to observe and hand the form into the court for each case (which will be retained on the court file of each case they are present in the courtroom for).
  • FP300 is the application form to be used by lawyers who are part of an educational charity—the application must be made by e-mail to pfd.office@judiciary.uk, or by post to The Office of the President of the Family Division, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL, at least four weeks in advance of the first hearing from which the charity intends to send persons to court to give sufficient time for the application to be processed and notify the charity and HMCTS of the outcome of the application, and the President’s office will maintain a list of all charities authorised to attend court for this purpose.

This analysis was originally published on LexisPSL Family (subscription required). Click here to request a free 1-week trial