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Leeds family-law ‘transparency order’ a first
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27 Jan 2023 / family law Print

Family law first: Leeds court makes ‘transparency order’

A judge has made what is believed to be the first transparency order to allow reporting of a case in the family courts in England, according to the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales.

The order covers a finding-of-fact hearing being held in Leeds, and is expected to last 11 weeks.

It was made by Family Division liaison judge Mr Justice Poole under a reporting pilot being conducted in the Family Courts in Leeds, Cardiff, and Carlisle from 30 January.

The judgment states that it is appropriate to adopt the pilot from the hearing’s outset. 

The Gazette says that the transparency order (TO) was made prior to the hearing and circulated to the parties.

‘Potential pilot reporters’ were told of the case through the Royal Courts of Justice press office.

‘Pilot reporters’

The finding-of-fact hearing involves three separate family-law applications brought to the court by local authorities in relation to three separate families, all living in Yorkshire.

The cases concern allegations that the mother in each family “fabricated or induced illness in one child of each family”. Three women have been arrested and a criminal investigation started.

Under the TO, ‘pilot reporters’ – accredited journalists or an authorised legal blogger – may report on proceedings, with restrictions to protect the identities of children.

The order adopts the template attached to president of the Family Division Sir Andrew McFarlane’s guidance with two “significant variations” that Poole said would “not be necessary in most cases”.

The variations include a condition that no reporting of the proceedings will be permitted until the conclusion of the hearing, and “perhaps, due to possible criminal proceedings, long after that”.

The second variation is the inclusion of a confidential schedule to the order with the real names of family members – including children – involved.

Documentation restricted

Poole said: “The purpose of doing so was to avoid inadvertent reporting of any members of the three families. If a pilot reporter has any doubts about whether an individual is subject to the prohibition on identification, they can check the confidential schedule.”

The judge also restricted the documentation that reporters are entitled to receive under the transparency order.

He said: “In my view, the quantity of such documentation in this case would be an unhelpful burden on reporters and the parties alike.”

Opening and closing position statements or skeleton arguments, and the indices to the hearing bundles are available, but no other documentation can be shared “without the express permission of the court”.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland