Transparency in the family courts: moving away from secrecy whilst maintaining privacy?

Jeanette Ashton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court and Court of Protection, called for significant changes in the approach of the family courts and Court of Protection towards transparency in his judgment in Re P (A Child)1. This case concerned an application by Essex County Council for a reporting restriction order in relation to an Italian woman Alessandra Pacchieri, whose daughter was delivered by caesarean section, by order of the Court of Protection and against her wishes, and later taken into the care of Essex County Council and subsequently adopted. The case unsurprisingly received considerable media attention worldwide2. The facts of this tragic case are complex but briefly Ms Pacchieri, who has bipolar disorder, was in Essex to attend a training course when she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act after ceasing her medication due to fears that her unborn baby would be affected. Sir James’s judgment sets out the full chronology of events leading up to the application which will not be discussed in this article but in relation to the reporting of the court proceedings in the media he noted: “How can the family justice system blame the media for inaccuracy in the reporting of family cases if for whatever reason none of the relevant information has been put before the public?”3 and called for greater transparency: "... This case must surely stand as final, stark and irrefutable demonstration of the pressing need for radical changes in the way in which both the family courts and the Court of Protection approach what for shorthand I will refer to as transparency. We simply cannot go on as hitherto. Many more judgments must be published"...4 Following the publication of the House of Commons briefing paper in September 2015 ‘Confidentiality and openness in the family courts: current rules and history of their reform’5, this article considers the background to calls for increased transparency in family proceedings and the current position before proceeding to reflect on possible developments in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-36
Number of pages2
JournalStudent Law Review
Volume77
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

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