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Privacy in family Law cases vs. freedom of expression

The law governing reporting restrictions in family hearings

is fairly uncertain with differences of opinion among even the Judges of

different divisions. Holman J is in favour of no press restrictions in

his Court of Appeal cases, whereas other Judges, including Mostyn J, are

applying the law more conservatively. Further judicial clarification is

arguably needed.

In fitting timing, the House of Commons Library has also

very recently published a briefing paper looking at the issue of

confidentiality and openness in the family court. The paper is available

to download here:

The paper sets out the current rules on transparency, media attendance and the

publication of judgments, as well as the rules on contempt of court, a history

of recent changes to the transparency of the family courts, including the

recent direction on the publication of judgments, and consultation on further

measures to improve transparency by the President of the Family Division.

News Group Newspapers have been granted permission to appeal

the ruling in Appleton v Gallagher. This is a hot topic at present and I

have little doubt that these arguments will resurface again soon.

Regulations concerning media reporting of how divorcing couples divide up their disputed assets are chaotic, a senior family court judge has acknowledged.

Mr Justice Mostyn was ruling on an injunction in the high-profile split of pop singers Liam Gallagher and Nicole Appleton. The pair jointly applied to exclude the press from a family courts hearing in central London this month.

Journalists are allowed to attend such hearings but are not necessarily allowed to publicise all details of cases. Mostyn, in his written ruling, said journalists were allowed into private, “ancillary relief” proceedings to observe as watchdogs, but “not to report specific details of the case”.
His ruling relaxes slightly an injunction on media coverage of the case, and leaves it open for the judge who heard the case to provide further details in his final judgment.”