Will the press be in court hearings about my children?

February 5th 2024

The answer to this used to be no, but times are changing. The top family law judges have been piloting media access to certain family hearings, because they want great public understanding of and confidence in the system and processes. Judges can be making life changing decisions, so should be accountable.

The Transparency Media Pilot started in 2023 in very limited courts, but is now expanding and even for those courts not in the pilot, judges are likely to be persuaded more easily that press should be allowed into hearings.

Press have been able to sit in on hearings for a while, but not report on them, but now they can report on some, but not all family cases. The press, defined as accredited media/ reports or legal bloggers, can apply to come into certain hearings.

The press cannot enter Family Law Act/ Domestic Abuse Act cases dealing with domestic abuse, or adoption. The latest changes relate to children cases between families (known as Private Law cases) and cases where the Local Authority is applying to take children into care or supervision (known as Public Law cases).

Reporting can name Local Authorities and senior officials, but not individual social workers or Cafcass officers, court experts, but not treating doctors and legal representatives and judges.

Nobody can name children, parents or family, addresses or schools, anonymity remains very important, but the decision is the judge’s not the parents’.

Parents can talk to reports but it is still contempt of court for them to publish anything themselves about their case.

Early indications are that the press were initially interested and there was a “flurry” of activity, but it will remain unusual for the press to be reporting on cases.