Message from the President of the Family Division: Reporting Pilot in the Family Court

On Monday 30 January 2023, the Transparency Implementation Group Reporting Pilot will launch in Cardiff, Leeds and Carlisle. The aim of the pilot is to introduce a presumption that accredited media and legal bloggers may report on what they see and hear during family court cases, subject to strict rules of anonymity. The ability to report is being piloted to make sure it can be done safely and with minimum disruption to those involved in the cases, and the courts. This will be done through judges in these Courts making a ‘Transparency Order’, which sets out the rules of what can and cannot be reported.

The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane said:

“The reporting pilot in Leeds, Carlisle and Cardiff marks the start of the judiciary’s ongoing work to make transparency in the Family Court a reality. Openness and confidentiality are not irreconcilable, and each is achievable. The aim of the pilot is to understand the impact of open reporting and to enhance public confidence, whilst at the same time firmly protecting continued confidentiality.

“Following the publication of the Transparency Review in October 2021, and over a year of discussions with practitioners, journalists, legal bloggers and other stakeholders, accredited media representatives and legal bloggers in the pilot areas will be able, not only to attend and observe family court hearings, but also to report publicly on what they see and hear. Reporting must be subject to very clear rules to maintain both the anonymity of the children and family members who are before the court, and confidentiality with respect of intimate details of their private lives.

“The pilot is a work in progress, and the judges in each area, practitioners and media will be monitoring the transparency orders, and the process, as cases come to court. The reporting pilot is one aspect of the work being done to open up the Family Court, there are other working groups for data collection, financial remedies, and anonymisation and publication of judgments.”

The Reporting Pilot is the pilot scheme for one of the main recommendations from the President of the Family Division’s Transparency Review, which was published in October 2021. To ensure that the recommendations of the review were implemented, the President set up the Transparency Implementation Group in December 2021. Since then, a sub-group of the TIG, led by Mrs Justice Lieven, supported by TIG secretary Jack Harrison, and composed of stakeholders from across family justice and beyond, have designed and set up the reporting pilot.

Full details of the pilot including detailed guidance for reporters can be found on the Reporting Pilot page.