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MA responds to consultations on legal bloggers attending family court and remote hearings in the family court

Family justice consultation responses


28 April 2020
MA responds to consultations on legal bloggers attending family court and remote hearings in the family court

The MA has responded to two recent consultations, issued by the Family Procedure Rule Committee (FPRC) and the President of the Family Division.

The first of these sought feedback on the pilot scheme which started in December 2018 and allows accredited legal bloggers to attend family court hearings, with the same restrictions to protect vulnerable parties as apply to journalists. This was done through amending Rule 27.11 on attendance at hearings, so that 'duly authorised lawyers attending for journalistic, research or public legal educational purposes' are included. The pilot scheme was intended to improve transparency in family justice, while recognising the need to ensure the safety of individuals involved, and is considered by the FPRC to have worked well so far. The committee sought to understand wider views on legal bloggers attending family court hearings. The MA response can be found here. We welcomed the changes, and the opportunity for greater transparency in relation to family court proceedings offered by legal bloggers, researchers or academics. We did, however, highlight the risks of jigsaw identification and the need for anonymisation to be robust, to ensure the rights of any children involved in cases are prioritised.

The second consultation was issued by the President of the Family Division, to gather evidence on how remote family hearings are currently being used due to the coronavirus pandemic, to inform guidance that the President intends to provide. The research was conducted by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory and sought views from those with experience of remote hearings on what such hearings have involved, what has worked well, any arising concerns about using remote hearings, and how these could be improved. The MA response can be found here. We acknowledged the need for remote hearings to progress hearings and prevent delays but highlighted a few concerns about ensuring a fair process - especially for litigants in person or vulnerable parties - and how they could be addressed.

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