• Correcting, clarifying or commenting on media reports of family court cases
  • Explaining or commenting on published judgments of family court cases
  • Highlighting other transparency news

MEDIA (MIS)REPORTS OF FAMILY COURT CASES

The Daily Mail and others – We commented (to the the extent we felt possible), on news reports and social media claims about Ellie Yarrow’s disappearance with son Olly, during family court (child arrangements order) proceedings. See Another runaway mum in the news – what’s the story? We’re looking into the possibility of attending future hearings under the legal blogging pilot or otherwise.

The SunReported Channel 5’s Alcohol and Me: Featuring eight ex-alcoholics, including Joanne who the Sun report saying ‘I drank a bottle of wine a day through THREE pregnancies and thought they’d be fine – but my baby was just 1lb 12oz and they were taken into care’. Catch up here. Blog to follow:

The Daily Mail and others – Reported the 9 year prison sentence Sabine McNeil received for stalking and breaches of a restraining order. Only the Hoaxtead Research blog site apparently offered the full detail of (as yet) unpublished judicial sentencing remarks, though the Daily Mail quoted parts. We’ve enquired with the judicial office about publication of the official sentencing remarks:

Transparency Positive

The Bureau Local – An innovative investigative toolkit promoting in-depth investigation of public interest stories, from the Bureau Local. The Bureau describe themselves as a collaborative, investigative journalism network (within the wider Bureau of Investigative Journalism), telling stories that matter to communities. The sections on freedom of information requests and solutions journalism (ie. journalism that focuses on groundbreaking work being done to tackle social and political problems rather than just reporting the problems) may have particular relevance for family law:

The Bournemouth Daily Echo – Local press credited by some on twitter for their balanced and reasonably detailed approach to reporting this sad family court decision in contrast to others. (See the Daily Mail here and discussion of other aspects of the judgment below. Neither report linked readers to the free online published judgment to form their own view).

Linkless

The Stoke on Trent Sentinel (following a Metro report) – In contrast this local news report and the Metro report behind it (neither of which linked to the detailed judgment from a decision that baby twins required adoption), provoked twitter criticism on the basis it was weak reporting, lacking compassion or any obvious grasp of the case issues beyond the headline labels of ‘mental health’ / ‘pattern of getting pregnant’. See this twitter exchange. (The judgment itself features a transparent approach to publication and efforts to explain the law in terms a father with a learning disability could follow):


NEWLY PUBLISHED CASES FOR EXPLANATION OR COMMENT

A Local Authority v B, H and I (Sibling as carer or adoption) (rev 1)Judgment from a family court decision to permit placement for adoption rather than placement with a sibling. In which His Honour Judge Dancey routinely redacts the identity not just of all professionals save counsel, but the local authority itself. On the basis, not of an explicit balancing of article 8 and 10 rights in the particular case but routinely in response to an interpretation of the law provided in Schedule 1 of the newly endorsed Anonymisation and Avoidance of Identification of Children practice guidance. It seems to conflict with the interpretation in the Transparency in Family Court Judgments practice guidance (para 20 (i)) and it will be interesting to see whether Louise Tickle’s appeal against a reporting restriction order which is listed for hearing in the Court of Appeal on 19th March 2019 (discussed at the Open Family Court here – scroll down to 24th October) will offer any clarification. (Louise Tickle is a journalist, who is also a member of the Transparency Project):

TK v SK (Children: Fact finding: Serious Domestic Abuse) – A family court judgment featuring serious domestic abuse that illustrates (among other things) the sort of fact finding process explained in recent guidance from The Transparency Project on how the Family Court deals with domestic abuse, including the ability of Family Court judges to make findings where appropriate, even in the absence of independent corroborating evidence, through assessment of the credibility of the witnesses:


IN OTHER TRANSPARENCY NEWS

Transparency Training

Bookings are now open for our CPD workshop for lawyers, running on 29th January in London. The workshop is for lawyers interested in brushing up their ‘transparency’ knowledge in light of the Legal Blogging Pilot implemented through PD36J; whether with a view to taking part in the scheme themselves, or so as to feel better prepared for responding to attendances by legal bloggers or journalists in cases where they are instructed.

 Digital Court reform, court closures and access to justice

We reported the first International Online Courts Forum  (chaired by Susan Acland-Hood, Chief Executive of HMCTS (the court service) https://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/international-online-courts-forum-what-we-learned/and Professor Richard Susskind, President of Society for Computers and Law) in International Online Courts Forum: what we learned

The House of Commons Justice Committee launched an inquiry into the access to justice implications of digital court reform programme, including the increasing use of digital and video technology and the closures of courts and tribunal hearing centres.  The deadline is 11th March. The Transparency Project (among others) will be responding.

See also Justice Online: Are we there yet?, a lecture by Joshua Rozenberg at Gresham College on 21st February 2019 (no reservations):

Effective press regulation – Lots of interest in this new decision from the largest press regulator, IPSO on a family court case we wrote about previously. Blog to follow. (IPSO also released outline plans for standards and monitoring in 2019 which included reference to reporting domestic abuse and court reporting (though the latter reads as limited to producing guidance on ensuring online articles and their comments don’t risk prejudicing criminal trials):

Written evidence on conditions in ATU’s and other psychiatric inpatient settings – The Joint Committee on Human Rights called for more written evidence on detention of children and young people with learning disabilities and/or autism in mental health hospitals and their human rights. Submissions by 8th February in accordance with terms of reference here. (See also reports last week of the Health and Safety Executive prosecution of the Priory private mental health group, following the death of 14-year-old Amy El-Keria at Ticehurst House hospital):

Transparency through language – Paul Magrath (Transparency Project Trustee) reviewed Clarity for Lawyers: Effective Legal Language by Mark Adler and Daphne Perry at ICLR here. (See also Michael Rosen’s Word of Mouth on language of the courtroom, featuring Transparency Project Chair Lucy Reed on 22nd January on BBC Radio 4; and David Burrows on the impact of complexity of language and rules for access to justice for children at Bloomsbury Professional Law:

Feature pic: Courtesy of Flickr Lauri Heikkinen via CreativeCommons licence – with thanks