Court reporting: Children Schools & Families Bill passes through in 'wash-up'

The Children Schools & Families Bill, which will herald the introduction of a new reporting protocol in family courts, completed its passage through Parliament as part of last week’s “wash-up” ahead of the general election.

The Newspaper Society reported that the bill passed through with the addition of amendments ensuring that “anonymity would be restricted to those directly involved in the proceedings”.

The NS said it was disappointed that all witnesses in family court cases, other than paid experts, would be granted “blanket anonymity”. This will include professionals like the police, media staff and people working for the local authority.

The Ministry of Justice has taken a number of steps in recent months to open the family courts to greater public scrutiny.

Last month, the Children’s Commissioner for England called for an independent review of new rules governing media access to family courts as she raised fears that greater public scrutiny could threaten children’s wellbeing.

Despite moves by the Ministry of Justice to open family courts to wider media examination, Dr Maggie Atkinson said more “workable and sensitive solutions” were available.

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