Mixed reception for media attendance at family court hearings

Vulnerable children, public bodies, lawyers and judges have come out against giving the media the right to attend all family court hearings, the government revealed today.

But responses to the government’s consultation on opening up family courts revealed strong support among the media and members of the public.

Under the proposals published last July the media would be able to report on proceedings in all family courts – not just magistrates courts as at present – so long as they did not identify children and parties to the case. Witnesses including social workers could be identified.

However, just 32 per cent of 104 vulnerable children and young people, who were questioned on the plans, backed media attendance as of right.

Of 174 people or groups who formally responded to the consultation, 54 per cent backed giving the media the right to attend.

However, there were strong majorities against media attendance among the legal profession (78 per cent), and public bodies (77 per cent), such as councils.

And the Association of District Judges and the Council of Circuit Judges, which represent family judges, also opposed the move.

In its response, the association said: “Family proceedings are private between the parties and the automatic right to be present would have a detrimental effect on parties and their witnesses.”

The Department for Constitutional Affairs said it would consider the responses.

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