The Ministry of Justice is planning to review controversial measures passed by the previous government that would allow the media more access to family court cases.
The policy has been criticised by the children’s commissioner and charities for potentially putting vulnerable children and families at risk by compromising their privacy.
An MoJ spokesperson said ministers would “look closely” at the changes the Children, Schools and Families Act 2010 Act would introduce before any final decisions about the implementation of the measures are made.
“It is important that the family justice system is properly understood and commands public confidence. At the same time, there is a clear need to protect the privacy of vulnerable children and adults involved in cases in the family courts.
“In recognition of the sensitivity of this area, the government wants to look closely at the changes the Act would introduce before any final decision on implementation is taken,” the spokesperson said.
The move has been welcomed by deputy children’s commissioner for England, Sue Berelowitz. She said: “I really welcome the decision by the Ministry of Justice to look again at the measures to allow journalists to report more widely on family court cases.”
Berelowitz said she understood the reasons behind the calls for greater transparency in family proceedings, but was concerned about the impact on children who had told her they were “seriously worried about information from their private lives being placed into the public domain.”
“We have long advocated for assurances that a child’s privacy is upheld and the utmost sensitivity is demonstrated before any information from the family courts is made public.
“Any change to the current rules on reporting must put the best interests of the child first. We will continue to work with the Ministry of Justice to ensure these children’s lives are adequately protected,” she said.
The controversial measures contained in the Children, Schools and Families bill were rushed through Parliament before it dissolved in April this year.
This followed a report published by the children’s commissioner in March that showed children and young people did not trust the media to protect their identities. The commissioner argued this would make them reluctant to tell their stories and give evidence in family proceedings.
Media chiefs have admitted they are not hopeful that the moves will ever be implemented.
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