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Reporting family court proceedings: media access date announced

Date:20 APR 2009

Family court hearings in county courts and the High Court are to be opened to the media from 27 April the Government announced last week. The already more open arrangements in Family Proceedings (Magistrates') Courts will continue.

Media representatives who attend family courts must be holders of the UK Press Card.

Accredited media will be able to attend all levels of family courts, removing the existing inconsistency of access between magistrates' courts and the county and High Courts. The court will be able to restrict attendance if the welfare of the child requires it, or for the safety and protection of parties or witnesses.

Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Justice, said: "Public confidence in the justice system is a necessary and vital part of a democratic society. I want to ensure that reforms to the family courts system increase their accountability to the public.

"People need to trust the justice system. One important way is by creating a more open, transparent and accountable system while protecting children and families during a difficult and traumatic time in their lives."

"This could potentially represent a very significant change," comments Angela Davis, a family lawyer in the private client team of Nottingham solicitors Berryman. "For years, family court hearings have been held in private. However, in practice it remains to be seen whether there will be any real change or whether family court Judges will use their powers to restrict attendance readily.

"The real test may come when a case involving a celebrity child comes before a court."

The amendments to the Family Proceedings Courts (Children Act 1989) Rules 1991 and the Family Proceedings Courts (Child Support Act 1991) Rules 1993 that allow the attendance of the media can be downloaded below.

The Family Proceedings (Amendment) (No.2) Rules 2009
SI 2009 No. 857(L. 8)

The Family Proceedings Courts (Miscellaneous Amendments) Rules 2009
SI 2009 No. 858 (L. 9)

Practice Direction: Attendance of Media Representatives at Hearings in Family Proceedings

Practice Direction: Attendance of Media Representatives at Hearings in Family Proceedings
High Court