The media would have an automatic right to report family court proceedings so long as children and parents were kept anonymous, under government plans unveiled today by Harriet Harman QC, the constitutional affairs minister.
But there would be no anonymity for social workers giving evidence about public law cases and other expert witnesses, under the proposals to open up the family courts.
The plans are designed to permit greater scrutiny of family proceedings, which are in most cases closed to the media and public, amid widespread accusations of bias.
Judges will have the discretion to admit anyone who applies to hear cases, and to increase or relax reporting restrictions on the media.
Breaches of reporting restrictions will be punishable under a new specific criminal offence.
The Department for Constitutional Affairs is also seeking views on whether and how children involved in proceedings should be informed about them when they reach adulthood.
The consultation ends on 30 October.
Confidence and confidentiality: improving transparency and privacy in family courts from www.dca.gov.uk/consult/confr.htm