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Transparency Project: Family Court Reporting Watch – Weekly Round-Up

alexflickrThe purpose of this update is to correct, clarify and comment on media reports of family court cases, to explain and comment on published Judgments of family cases and to highlight other transparency news.

Media Reports of Family Courts Case and Family Justice Issues

  • The BBC and most media outlets reported the application of a terminally ill young person to the family court, for orders allowing her to have her body cryo-preserved upon her death:  The BBC report is here and the judgment here. The BBC, through Sanchia Berg, later linked their readers to the published judgment on twitter.  The Press Gazette explain here how newspapers prepared their front pages for publication without breaching the Reporting Restriction Order due to expire at midnight the night before. Suespicious Minds blog explained the case here and our blog report is to to follow.
  • The Telegraph and Daily Mail seemed to just copy The Suns errors in reporting Re X, Y and Z (Disclosure to the security service): the full blog is here.
  • A tottering edifice indeed: Family Court Reporting Watch responded to misreporting in Christopher Bookers column in the Telegraph in respect of highly regarded (retired) Family Court Judge and innovator Nick Crichton here.
  • The Daily Mail continued to misreport the Court of Protection while reporting the Court of Appeal decision to release the 71 year old woman imprisoned for non compliance with an order she felt against an elderly mans interests. Full blog here with thanks to Barbara Rich.
  • Admissibility of covert recordings of professionals and others in family proceedings. Full blog here.
  • Transparency Project response to the Ministry of Justice Consultation on Transforming our Justice System. Discussion of the consultation and our response in our full blog here.
  • The Sun amended their amendment at the request of the Transparency Project.  See our earlier blog here with final update.

Newly Published Cases for Explanation or Comment

Mr Justice Hayden published the judgment explaining his decision to refuse permission to Associated Newspapers Limited to appeal against the reporting restriction order in Re J (A Minor). The substantive judgment in the care proceedings and the local authorities application for a reporting restriction order had already been published and explained by the Transparency Project here (Hayden J decided a child aged 7 needed to live with his father because of his mothers insistence, against the evidence, that her child suffered from gender dysphoria and wanted to live as a girl. The judgment would not be reduced to a summary. The social workers, cafcass officers and experts should be named with the local authority anonymised. The mother was restricted from telling her story)

Hayden J commended the constructive approach of the media in agreeing a proposal from Brian Farmer of the Press Association, that publication of the substantive judgment might be delayed to half term for the family:

I pause there to say that I found that consensus a helpful and positive approach towards the child at the centre of this process. When all the parties are able to agree a way forward on any issue in relation to a vulnerable child, the experience of this Court is that the child is invariably better protected. If I may say so, I was particularly encouraged that the press were so cooperative towards the proposal.

And in an unusual and collaborative approach, he responded to the immediate application on behalf of Associated Newspapers Limited to appeal against the reporting restriction order preventing the mother from telling her story, before even seeing the substantive judgments upon which that application to appeal would normally be referenced), by releasing both Judgments in draft to the media to allow reflection ahead of an adjourned date for handing down judgments on 21 October 2016.

Reminding the parties that at the heart of this case is a little boy who requires stability, peace and privacy to adjust to the extraordinary circumstances of his yet very young life and that the substantive care proceedings decision hadn’t been subject to any application to appeal, Mr Justice Hayden said he had hoped to foster that cooperative relationship in order better to protect the child.

Associated Newspapers Limited in fact renewed their application to appeal. It was then refused on the basis that in the striking and unusual circumstances of this case there was simply no practical way to allow the mother to tell her story to the media in the way that she intended to do, without identifying J. Her admitted intention was to explain that J was in fact gender dysphoric, which could only be done by reference to the details of J’s life and behaviour, as she perceived it, whilst living with her. J would be recognisable from the information to those around him given the unique facts, the information would be likely to be distressing and knowing his mother had shared the information risked jeopardising any restoration of their relationship.

And in other Transparency News

  • The Government has said it may end the appeal right to the First Tier Tribunal against a decision by the Information Commissioner’s Office not to release information. As reported in the Gazette here 
  • New Guidance for coroners on dealing with the media (designed to help coroners and reporters alike). Guidance (25): Coroners and the Media is here at the judiciary website.  See also here for discussion of it by the News Media Association.

This post originally appeared on the Transparency Project blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks.

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