The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has released draft guidance on the press reporting in the Family Court. This follows an appeal in relation to the case of Re R (A Child) (Reporting Restrictions) [2019] EWCA 482 Civ. The President, who is also Head of Family Justice, said he welcomes people’s views and suggestions to the consultation.

Family Proceedings are normally held in private, the Family Procedure Rules 2010 allows duly accredited representatives of news gathering and reporting organisations to attend such hearings, save in certain circumstances where the court may direct that representatives shall not attend. Since October 2018, a pilot scheme allows for “duly authorised lawyers attending for journalistic, research or public legal educational purposes” to attend hearings. The right to attend hearings does not, however, grant the right to report on proceedings or publish details of proceedings.

Legislation dating back to 1960 and 1989 establishes  automatic restrictions on reporting and publication in family cases involving children although, whilst journalists and legal bloggers are prohibited from publishing even after the conclusion of proceedings, restrictions cease on the termination of proceedings. The court has the power to extend reporting restrictions in appropriate cases using its inherent jurisdiction. Where the court is asked to lift/extend reporting restrictions, a balancing exercise is required. It is to be noted that an application to lift or to extend the statutory reporting restrictions may lead to the making of a report restriction order.

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