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Guide from The Transparency Project aims to help parties with the publishing of family law judgments

Concern that privacy protection should be 'robust and effective’

The Transparency Project has published a guide directed at families and the professionals working with them, to help them think through the possible pros and cons, and the potential practical consequences of publication of judgments about private family matters. Rather than focusing just on issues of anonymisation and jigsaw identification, it aims to involve families in the decision-making process about publication, and with the process of anonymising judgments so that privacy protection is robust and effective.

In 2014 the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, issued guidance to Family Court judges, encouraging them to publish more judgments from family cases to increase transparency of the work of the Family Courts. Since an initial surge in publication rates, the number of published judgments has begun to decline again. Recent research carried out by academics at Cardiff and Bristol Universities suggested that the reasons for the comparatively modest increase in publication rates were complex, and in part due to time and resource pressures. The research also showed that publication rates were inconsistent from judge to judge and from region to region.

Lucy Reed, Chair of The Transparency Project said:

"We identified that there were no materials for families involved in family court cases to help them understand when, why and how judgments in their case might be published. Our guide aims to fill that gap. It isn't practical or appropriate for every judgment in every family court case to be published, but we hope that it will both help make sure judgments are reliably anonymised before publication, and help families and professionals to support publication where that can be achieved without jeopardising the family's privacy or welfare. We hope that our guide will be used by lawyers, social workers and children's guardians to talk through questions of publication of judgments with the children and parents they are working with, so that safe transparency can be facilitated where possible, and unnecessary anxiety avoided."

The guide can be used as a tool to assist parents and their lawyers to discuss and think through whether publication is likely or appropriate in their case, and if so how it should be done, and can be used by social workers or children's guardians to work through similar issues with older children, depending on their understanding and maturity.

For Publication of Family Court Judgments – A guidance note for families & professionals, click here.