The Transparency Pilot was launched in January 2023. Its aims were to allow ‘pilot reporters’, including accredited journalists and legal bloggers, to report on cases heard in the Family Court, subject to strict rules of anonymity. The pilot was tested in Leeds, Cardiff and Carlisle Courts to test reporters’ access to ensure that reporting can be done safely and with minimal disruption to those involved in the cases and the courts.
From 29th January 2024, the pilot is now being extended to 16 more family court centres in England, including Manchester and Liverpool Courts. This means 19 of the 43 centres in England and Wales will be part of the Transparency Pilot.
Under the rules of the pilot, a judge will set out what can and cannot be reported by making a “transparency order” which allows for the following:
1. Journalists, reporters and bloggers can come into family court hearings, watch the hearing and then report what happens;
2. Journalists, reporters and bloggers can look at certain documents from the case;
3. You can talk to journalists, reporters and bloggers about your own case;
The cases will still be anonymised, and no one is allowed to name or take photos of family members. Although it may be possible for you to recognise your case based on specific details (particularly in the local press), the aim is to make sure that others can’t identify your case by any of the facts reported. However, reporting can include the names of local authorities and some experts, once Transparency Orders are granted.
Initially, reporting will be limited to “public law cases”, where judges are deciding whether children should be taken into care. As happened in the pilot centres of Leeds, Cardiff and Carlisle, reporting will be extended later to “private law cases”, where parents are separating. It will also be allowed eventually at magistrates’ hearings of family cases.
Not every case will be reported on and in each case the judge will decide in each case whether it is a suitable case for journalist access to be allowed. If the judge decides that it is, but you would like it to remain private, you can request that the transparency order be changed. The judge will balance the things that you are worried about against the overall aim of the pilot – to make the family court a more open and understood system – and then decide whether the reporting can continue. No matter what the judge orders, you don’t have to speak to a reporter unless you want to.
Our dedicated Care Team are on hand to assist you with matters relating to children’s services involvement and care proceedings. Contact the team today on 0161 330 6821 or make an enquiry on email@example.com to get the ball rolling