Welcome to this month’s Roundup, where we correct, clarify and comment on media reports of family court cases, explain and comment on published family court judgments and highlight other transparency news
MEDIA COVERAGE OF FAMILY COURT MATTERS
Most media outlets and broadcasters – Reported the child arrangement order proceedings in the High Court between Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Princess Haya of Jordan, once the Supreme Court refused the Sheikh permission to appeal beyond the Court of Appeal, against decisions that damning fact finding, waiver & assurances (and publication) judgments should be published. Julie Doughty summarised for us in her post : The Sheikh Story:
Criminal law barrister and blogger Matthew Scott controversially asked ‘Is Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum a kidnapper and a pirate?‘ and explores in his post some of the potential criminal legal consequences for the Sheikh.
Many media and broadcast outlets – Reported a Court of Appeal decision overturning XW v XH about financial compensation on divorce to a wife who sacrificed her career during a marriage. See, for example, the Independent – Landmark judgment overturns court ruling that stopped wife getting more than 20% of divorce settlement and the Guardian – Woman wins payout for stymied career in landmark divorce case. Polly Morgan contextualised the media reports ahead of publication of the judgment from the Court of Appeal, in Compensation on divorce – don’t get (too) excited:
The Times, I-News, BBC News and others – Reported (from very different perspectives) the permission granted to Keira Bell and another to judicially review prescription of hormone blockers to children by the Gender Identity Clinic at the Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust. (See here, here, and here.) Judgments from permission decisions are not routinely published, but we aim to report the judgment from the full hearing anticipated in early summer, likely to be of interest on the issue of the right legal test for informed consent from children in these circumstances:
BBC Radio 4, Behind Closed Doors – The Transparency Project reviewed more of Clara Glynn’s legal docu-dramas that accurately illustrate complex dilemmas from the family courts and court of protection, with no loss of ‘drama’. See the Balance of Probabilities by Delia Minoprio; Mediation by Elizabeth Wark; and Life Chances by Jack Harrison.
NEWLY PUBLISHED CASES
Re K (Forced Marriage: Passport Order) (Rev 2)  EWCA Civ 190 (21 February 2020) – Laura Vickers explained new guidance from the President on the TP blog in Approaching Forced Marriage Protection Orders following Re K:
W (A Child: Leave To Oppose Adoption)  EWCA Civ 16 (21 January 2020) – Julie Doughty explained a Court of Appeal decision to uphold an appeal against refusal of permission to oppose an adoption order. See : Another Re W – a successful appeal against refusal for leave to oppose an adoption:
Re M (Declaration of Death of Child)  EWCA Civ 164 – Paul Magrath explained the Court of Appeal’s reasons for refusing the appeal of baby Midrars’ parents against a High Court decision to let the hospital withdraw his mechanical ventilation after he was tragically deprived of oxygen at birth and later declared “brain-stem dead” by doctors. See “Brain dead” baby – Court of Appeal confirms High Court’s decision to allow “dignity in death” : Including the decision to issue a reporting restriction order to prevent the naming of the trust / medical staff, in light of difficulties in similar cases:
W (A Child) (Rev 2)  EWCA Civ 1966 (18 November 2019) and W (A Child), Re  EWCA Civ 77 (05 February 2020) – Emily Boardman explained why the Court of Appeal allowed a great-aunt’s appeal against the making of care and placement orders and awarded her costs in Re W – a successful appeal against a placement and care order (and a costs order against the LA). (Boardman, Hawkins and Osborne LLP represented the appellant):
JD & Anor v VB & Ors  EWHC 485 (Fam) (04 March 2020) – Blog to follow on this new judgment from HHJ Dancey featuring complex private law proceedings involving allegations of alienating behaviours from both parents and a transfer of residence. Polly Morgan flagged the value for transparency of hyperlinks at the outset to orient readers through a long judgment:
C (A Child: Interim Separation)  EWCA (26th February 2020) – Suesspicious Minds flagged a new element to the legal test for interim separation in Interim care order – revision to the separation test:
Re: CC (serious medical treatment) – Hayden J’s comments about naming professionals in medical treatment cases and transparency were reported.
Re I (Children : Child Assessment Order) 2020 – Suesspicious Minds blog also highlighted an unusual judgment from a court of appeal decision from a contested child assessment order application:
ACC & Ors ( property and affairs deputy ; recovering assets costs for legal proceedings)  EWCOP 9 (27 February 2020 ) – Barbara Rich and others flagged the judgment from a new court of protection decision on authorising a deputy to litigate on behalf of a patient, and at their expense. She also asked whether a practice direction might now be timely:
F v H (Fact-Finding)  EWFC B80 (08 August 2019) – The original judgment of HHJ Tolson that has been the subject of considerable recent publicity, following publication of the appeal judgment from Russell J in M v F, was published. The judicial office released it alongside confirmation that the MOJ spotlight review panel will report ‘soon’ and confirmation that existing judicial training on domestic abuse and PD12J will be amended to incorporate training on sexual offences issues such as consent and a new online resource on this would also be created in the interim. (See also Michelle Lefevre’s new research, published in partnership with Quality Circle, Kent and Sussex FLBA, and East and West Sussex Resolution; UK Human Rights Blog on Affaire Buturuga v Romania (App No. 56867/15) [only available in French apparently]; and the new report from IDAS on the experience and safeguarding of survivors of domestic abuse and their children in Child and Family Court Proceedings in York and North Yorkshire).
IN OTHER TRANSPARENCY NEWS
The Transparency Review – The President announced an extension to the deadline for responses to the Transparency Review to 30th April 2020. See Lucy Reed in More openness from the President. Please send us your consultation response or a link to it if you are happy for us to post it on our blog – we are hoping to gather responses together in one place.
This week has also seen the Family Procedure Rules Committee finally circulate a consultation on the Legal Bloggers Pilot (Closes 20 April), though as it was blank copied to us we are not sure who the consultees are, apart from the TP!
Transparency and public trust – The former President, Sir James Munby published a powerful view on public trust, reform and research in the context of private family law applications. See The crisis in private law on the Transparency Project blog. (See also Lucy Reed, Transparency Project Chair, in Family Reporting – a Black Hole at Bloomsbury Professional, and Tatiana Tkacukcova’s second blog on her research into Legal advice provided on online forums and social media – with a public law focus):
Transparency Project Facilitated Workshop
On 29 February the Transparency Project’s long planned facilitated workshop on transparency issues took place. A group of individuals with wide ranging roles and perspectives spent a day, with the help of a professional facilitator, discussing practical ways forward on transparency issues. It was a constructive but tiring day! We expect a written summary of the outcomes of that event to be published in due course, and to feed it in to the President’s Transparency Review. The input from all the participants will certainly inform our own response to the Transparency Review, and our thinking generally.
Transparency through systematic data capture, access, and research
- ADR UK (Administrative Data Research UK) have just announced a grant of almost £3 million to the Ministry of Justice to harness the potential of administrative data from across the justice system, thereby enhancing the evidence base needed to understand ‘what works’ to help tackle key social and justice policy issues. They say the data-linking programme, ‘Data First’, will anonymously link data from across the family, civil and criminal courts in England and Wales, enabling sustainable research on how the justice system is used. The data will be de-identified – meaning it can’t be used to identify individuals – and accessible only to researchers within government and accredited expert academics.
- Cafcass have just announced that they are ready to make their data (fully anonymised) available for researchers to access. See this report in the Gazette.
- The Information Law and Policy Centre (ILPC) held the ‘Digital Justice: Convenience at What Cost?’ seminar. You can watch the whole seminar here. (See also The Public and the ‘Future’ Court at the Transparency Project following a recent HMCTS update event).
- The Gazette reported renewed calls for systematic publication and access to judgments from English and Welsh court decisions following last years Digital First Report from the Legal Education Foundation’s Natalie Byrom (then seconded to HMCTS).
- Julie Doughty discussed new research published on how family courts handle domestic abuse in the South East. See Lawyers highlight poor practice in private law cases and the impact on families on Practice Direction 12J – What is the experience of lawyers working in private law children cases?
- IDAS published a York and North Yorkshire research report, commissioned by the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, entitled Domestic Abuse and the Family Courts – A review of the experience and safeguarding of survivors of domestic abuse and their children in respect of family court proceedings.
Transparency through reporting – legal bloggers and journalists
- Lucy Reed blogged a district judge’s list, and commented on access for reporters including legal bloggers to FHDRA hearings. See A day in the life of a district Judge and Conciliation and Legal Blogging:
- HMCTS announced updated guidance on working with the media, designed to ensure easier access to court information, but held an invitation only launch event that did not seem to fully embrace all relevant stakeholders. The HMCTS twitter feed suggests that the guidance on managing media access to high-profile hearings & on sharing courts lists, registers & documents with the media from the magistrates court are new :
- Melanie Newman (freelance journalist) applied to see the entire court file behind an overturned court decision to make a placement order and tweeted that judgment will be given in March. Transparency Project journalist member Louise Tickle attended that hearing and made a bid to be able to report Melanie’s application (which she was permitted to do). Keep an eye on Louise’s Open Family Court blog for more news on that.
The future of journalism
- The Government responded to the Cairncross Review. See Government responds to Cairncross – and it has something to say on court reporting from Judith Townend.
- In the meantime the Communications and Digital Committee of the House of Lords launched it’s own inquiry on the future of journalism. They are seeking responses (including on how the profession can become more trusted by the general public) until the 25th March 2020. The Transparency Project will respond and publish a response if possible:
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