Media access to family courts
Due to legislation (as of 27th April 2009), accredited members of the media, and other persons permitted by the court, are allowed access to the family courts.
This means that if you are involved in, or about to enter into, family court proceedings, the media may be present at any of the hearings.
Why have these changes been made?
The government has decided that in order to demonstrate that family cases are dealt with legitimately and with the parties’ best interests at the centre of each case, family court proceedings should be more transparent.
Which court hearings are affected?
The media has access to most court hearings but not all. If the hearing is to be used for conciliation or negotiation, for instance, financial dispute resolution hearings in financial proceedings, they will remain private. However if any part of the hearing is not for this purpose, then the media will be allowed access restricted to that part only.
What can the media report?
The new legislation restricts what the media can report when attending a court hearing. Documents filed within proceedings and information that might identify any child involved in proceedings is not allowed to be made public.
Can the media be prevented from attending hearings?
Yes, there are certain circumstances when the courts have the power to exclude members of the media, when it is necessary to:
- Protect the interests of a child connected with the case
- For the safety of a party or witness or person connected with them
- For the orderly conduct of proceedings
- If justice would be impeded or prejudiced by admitting them
The media can be excluded if ordered by the court of its own motion or on application of any party directly involved in proceedings. It is then up to the court to decide whether to exclude the media for all or part of the hearing or just to impose reporting and/or disclosure restrictions.
What might these changes mean to you?
You should be aware that the media may be allowed to attend your hearing, but will usually only report generally on the case and not publish specific details. You may be able to prevent them from attending depending on the circumstances of your case.