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Family Courts to be opened to press from 27 April

Jack Straw announces long-awaited regulations opening up family courts to media access

Jack Straw, The Secretary of State for Justice, has announced that the long-awaited regulations concerning the opening up of the family courts to the press will come into effect on 27 April.

Under the rules, media representatives who hold a UK Press Card will be able to attend all levels of court, including matters heard "in private" subject to the court’s ability to restrict access as follows:

At any stage of the proceedings the court may direct that persons within paragraph (3)(f) shall not attend the proceedings or any part of them, where satisfied that—

(a) this is necessary—

(i) in the interests of any child concerned in, or connected with, the proceedings;
(ii) for the safety or protection of a party, a witness in the proceedings, or a person connected with such a party or witness; or
(iii) for the orderly conduct of the proceedings; or

(b) justice will otherwise be impeded or prejudiced.

UK Press Cards are available on application to any one working "professionally as a media worker who needs to identify himself or herself in public." The scheme was introduced by the Metropolitan Police in 1992 and is recognised by police force and other public bodies.

Announcing the changes, the Minister reiterated his views in why the reform was necessary

"Public confidence in the justice system is a necessary and vital part of a democratic society. I want to ensure that reforms to the family courts system increase their accountability to the public"

The changes are introduced by the following statutory instruments:

  1. Family Proceedings Courts (Miscellaneous Amendments) Rules 2009
  2. Family Proceedings (Amendment) (No.2) Rules 2009


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