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    Wednesday, 11 April 2007

    Sauce for the goose? reporting restrictions in the family courts

    In the wake of the hoohah regarding sailors' sale of stories and the relaxation and reimposition of MoD restrictions (reflected here 1,2,3,4), a nice juxtaposition has been highlighted in the Guardian and picked up by Wordblog and Greenslade. It concerns the inability of a couple falsely accused by council services of injuring their baby son to tell their full story due to reporting restrictions.

    The rights and wrongs of open justice in the family courts has been a focus of long-running and ongoing debate. Most recently, Lord Falconer indicated that the arguments for greater openness, such as those put forward by the Newspaper Society:

    “the media should be allowed to attend ALL family courts as of right…The principle of a general presumption of openness must be established if public confidence and accountability is to be achieved. The role of the media as representative of the public particularly in relation to attendance at court proceedings is well established and understood”

    had to be set against the views of those representing children's interests to the effect that:

    “(there are) concerns about the assumption that the media will work on behalf, and for the benefit, of the public alone. Allowing the media access to family courts proceedings would give the public greater awareness of the complexities involved in making difficult decisions about a child’s care and welfare. However, the media also inevitably has a function to find news that will increase readership and sell newspapers and magazines. Any plans for opening up the courts must address this conflict of interest to ensure that the courts are open to scrutiny in a manner which keeps the child’s welfare and protection paramount.” (National Children's Bureau).

    On publishing a full set of responses to its recent consultation on open justice in the family courts, the Government promised to bring forward further proposals in due course.

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    For a neater juxtaposition, see the note on the Media Law Prof BlogMedia Law Prof Blog regarding the refusal of the Australian AG under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to allow a former Guantanamo detainee to sell his story:

    Australian AG: David Hicks Can't Sell Story

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