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President calls for radical changes in family courts’ approach to transparency

‘Many more judgments must be published’

The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has called for radical changes in the approach of the family courts and the Court of Protection to transparency.

Sir James's comments were made in his judgment delivered in Re P (A Child) [2013] EWHC 4048 (Fam). This was an application by Essex County Council for a reporting restriction order in relation to Alessandra Pacchieri, whose daughter, P, was delivered by caesarean section, by order of the Court of Protection, and was later taken into the care of Essex County Council.

The President's judgment gives a detailed chronology of the key events in the case. In relation to the reporting of the court proceedings, he concludes:

"How can the family justice system blame the media for inaccuracy in the reporting of family cases if for whatever reason none of the relevant information has been put before the public?

"... This case must surely stand as final, stark and irrefutable demonstration of the pressing need for radical changes in the way in which both the family courts and the Court of Protection approach what for shorthand I will refer to as transparency. We simply cannot go on as hitherto. Many more judgments must be published. And, as this case so very clearly demonstrates, that applies not merely to the judgments of |High Court Judges; it applies also to the judgments of Circuit Judges."

The judgment can be read here. An earlier short judgment relating to the reporting restriction application is here.