The new rules to open family courts to the media represent a missed opportunity to allow thorough and effective public scrutiny, family lawyer's group Resolution warned today, as it called for the establishment of a Family Courts' Inspectorate.
From Monday accredited journalists will be allowed to attend divorce, custody and care proceedings, unless the court has specifically excluded them. But the new rules still will not allow journalists to report on what they hear in court and cases not considered newsworthy will be completely without public scrutiny, Resolution claims.
"These changes simply tinker at the edges of the issue and have created a system which could well make matters worse when members of the public and press realise that details of cases cannot be made public," said Andrew Greensmith, Resolution's spokesperson on family court transparency.
"Greater openness and transparency has an important part to play in ensuring public confidence in the family court system, but simply allowing the media to sit in on cases is not enough. The new rules need to be extended to allow journalists to report what they see and hear in court, providing the identity of the families involved is protected.
"Resolution is calling on the government to set up a 'Family Courts' Inspectorate', made up predominantly of lay people, which could act as an effective guardian of standards in the family courts. Otherwise the risk is that only those cases that are 'newsworthy' will be subject to any public scrutiny," said Andrew Greensmith.