The Sun are very very cross. Why is that? Well…. Here’s the headline :
REDKNAPP DIVORCE SECRET
Jamie and Louise Redknapp’s divorce papers to be kept secret as a judge blocks the release of documents
District Judge Ian Paul Mulkis blocked the release of papers that would normally be made public and he has not given a reason why
Here’s the nub of it :
A JUDGE has thrown a blanket of secrecy over the divorce of Jamie and Louise Redknapp. District Judge Ian Paul Mulkis has blocked release of court papers which would normally be made public.
He has given no reason why he has stopped the Sun seeing the background documents, which give the detailed reasons why the celebrity couple split after 19 years of marriage.
We think that everyone will agree that is clearly the most outrageous affront to open justice this century.
A judge has probably refused to allow the press access to something that they weren’t entitled to in the first place and that they knew and the judge knew and we all know probably contains nothing of interest to the public in it*, let alone anything of public interest.
What do the Family Court rules (FPR) allow the press to see?
The short answer can be found in rule 29.12 which basically says – if you aren’t involved in the case you can have nada, unless the judge agrees.
The slightly more precise answer is that in divorce cases there are some documents which can be seen in some circumstances. But they can’t see everything and they can’t see it in all circumstances.
So, if a divorce is contested (i.e. it’s fought) that would happen in open court and then the press would be able to see the evidence in support during the final hearing. BUT even then the rules also say those documents can’t be used for any other purpose (which would include publication). The reason behind these rules (22.19 and 22.20) is so that anyone attending a public hearing can make sense of it. It isn’t so the press can publish sensational stories about what “unreasonable behaviour” Louise Redknapp said Jamie Redknapp was guilty of. Also, small fact : a piece of law from 1926 says that the detail of that hearing can’t be reported anyway.
But that is all hypothetical because there wasn’t a contested divorce. The Sun tell us that Jamie Redknapp did what most couples who want a divorce sensibly do: he didn’t contest the allegations. Allegations that were very probably put together to achieve the mutually desired aim of a divorce. And when there isn’t a contested divorce rule 7.20 says that there are only a very few things that the press (or anyone else) can get their mitts on :
- the certificate of entitlement to a decree
- the decree itself
- the evidence that was filed under rule 7.19(4)
The evidence filed under 7.19(4) sounds exciting, no?
No. Really not exciting. It’s this : D80.
*Snort* Sorry we nodded off. Also, the Mail have already published the certificate and the front page of the 7.19(4) form here so that’s hardly secret.
So. What are The Sun on about?
TBH we haven’t got a scooby. They talk about documents “usually” made public being kept secret but the certificate has already been obtained and published, and it doesn’t seem to be the decree itself they want, because they are after “the background documents, which give the detailed reasons why the celebrity couple split after 19 years of marriage” which must be the divorce petition itself. And they just aren’t entitled to that.
True it is that if there were a particular pressing public interest (by which we mean something genuinely important rather than just gossip) they could legitimately apply to see such a document and the court could permit it.
But most so-called “unreasonable behaviour” divorce petitions are pretty boring things, and we reckon that even in the case of a celebrity couple there is likely to be a limited amount of sparkle in the Redknapp petition to justify invading their privacy. They are trying to be sensible and to sort things out amicably or at any rate without a massive mud slinging contest, so on one view they are entitled to some space to try and do that privately, for the sake of their children.
Sadly, it seems that The Sun are determined to milk the Redknapp divorce for as much material as they can and in the absence of anything better a story about secrecy that hints there may be something exciting they can’t reveal this is a pretty desperate way of spinning it out for a bit longer.
We note that The Daily Mail have adopted the rather cowardly (lazy) approach of reporting on an ‘According to The Sun’ basis….So their article can’t be criticised for inaccuracy as it is merely a report of what The Sun say.
*oh alright, we concede that the success of gossip mags probably shows lots the public are interested, but that doesn’t mean they have a right to know. You wouldn’t want the whole world to see your divorce petition, should celebrities be any different?
Feature pic : Thomas Hawk on Flickr (Creative Commons) – thanks!