KEY DOCUMENTS :
Legal Bloggers Scheme
This page contains information about the legal bloggers scheme set out in Family Procedure Rule 27.11 (previously PD36J).
Under the scheme, ‘duly authorised’ lawyers may attend private hearings on a similar basis to journalists. Rules regarding privacy and restrictions on reporting remain unchanged, though we often seek and are given permission to report on an anonymised basis, usually with the agreement of the parties.
We explain a little about the scheme and how it came about here.
Download our Legal Blogging Leaflet. We’ve made this leaflet to help explain the scheme to those whose cases bloggers want to attend. Bloggers can print and take it with them to court, to hand out as required.
Read our FAQs below.
Can you attend my hearing?
We are often invited by some parties to attend their hearings. Often these requests will be from litigants who are unhappy about their case and how it has been handled, worried about how it might be handled, or who want the issues in their case to be brought to a wider audience. Our approach to these requests is as follows :
Please don’t send us court documents or lots of detail about your case in the hope we will attend court. There are strict rules about what you are allowed to share with us and we don’t want you to be criticised for sharing information that you shouldn’t have shared.
Please do send us :
- the case number, time, date, location, length and type of hearing (and whether the hearing is remote or in person)
- no more than a paragraph outlining what the case is about and why you think we should come
- the name of the judge if known (or if not the level of judge dealing with the case e.g. Magistrates (Lay Justices), District Judge (DJ), Circuit Judge (HHJ), Recorder, High Court Judge (J)).
- the contact details for the court
What you need to know:
- If a hearing is online or hybrid we will most likely attend remotely (i.e. by video link). We rely upon volunteers and it is not always feasible for them to travel long distances to attend court.
- Whilst we will not tell the court who has invited us to the hearing (which we treat as a confidential journalistic source), it is likely that in many cases it will be obvious to the court and the other parties who has told us about the case. Whilst we don’t think that anybody should have this held against them in the case this is not something we can advise you about, and you should speak to your own lawyer before contacting us if you are worried.
- Once you contact us we will make an independent decision about whether or not to attend the hearing. Whilst we will take into account any known objection to our attendance (including if someone has invited us but then changed their mind) we might still decide that we would like to attend.
- Whilst it is helpful to be pointed in the direction of hearings that might be interesting and worthwhile for us to attend, we have a limited number of legal bloggers on our team, who often have professional commitments during the day. Our bloggers generally blog on a voluntary (unpaid) basis. It is therefore unlikely that we would have the capacity to attend a specific hearing on request, particularly at short notice.
- We are an educational charity not a campaigning group. If we attended the hearing we might take a different view of your case than you do, and we might want to speak to various people involved with different views than your own. We generally try to report on a neutral basis without taking up a position for or against one or other ‘side’. We are independent of any party or the court. Editorial decisions about the contents of our reports are a matter for us alone and not for either party (or the court) to dictate (as long as we stick to the limits of permission to report, which is usually solely concerned with ensuring the parties / children are not identified).
- Because of automatic reporting restrictions we might not be able to report anything at all about your case even if we came to court. We generally make a request for permission to report the case anonymously at the end of the hearing. In our experience so far this is often granted and these requests don’t take long to sort out, but in a contentious case things might take longer.
- Where possible we will email the court/judge in advance of the hearing to indicate our intention to attend. When we do so the court may contact you to ask for your views, or the judge may check the position at the start of the hearing. We find it helpful to be able to see the case outline, skeleton arguments or position statements that have been prepared for the particular hearing we are attending in order to understand a bit more about what we are hearing and to ensure any report we do write is accurate, so we may also ask for permission to see those documents in advance. We are generally not allowed to see them without the judge’s permission, so again, you might be asked for your view about this. Generally if we are provided with these documents it is for information only and we must keep them confidential.
- Where we do attend a hearing we will try and cause as little disruption as possible so you can get on with focusing on the case.
- We do not generally conduct interviews with the parties outside of court as some journalists might.
Who can attend?
Duly authorised lawyers fall into three categories :
- Practising lawyers
- Non practising lawyers working for a Higher Education Institution
- Non practising lawyers working for a registered educational charity whose details have been placed on a list with the President’s office. The Transparency Project is such a charity.
How do I identify a hearing to attend?
Whilst most private hearings can be attended under this scheme, those which are ‘conciliation’ type hearings are not covered by the scheme (though that is not to say that a judge might not agree in an individual case to permit access. Cases marked as FHDRA (First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment), IRH (Issues Resolution Hearing), DRA (Dispute Resolution Appointment) or FDR (Financial Dispute Resolution) are ‘conciliation’ type hearings so you are unlikely to be able to attend these hearings under the scheme.
Generally cases with a C number are care (public law children), cases with a P number are private law children, cases with a F number are injunctions (Family Law Act) and D is financial remedy (divorce).
You will need to look at the list to see how long the hearing is listed for and whether it is worth attending (for example you might not want to dip in to day four of seven, but you might identify a one day final hearing that you are able to attend throughout).
Court lists are freely accessible the day before by registering with Courtserve web service.
Remote hearings : Courtserve listings often (but not always) now contain details of who to email in order to obtain a link to a hearing. We have found that it is difficult to get a response from a generic inbox between the time the listing goes up (usually the afternoon before the hearing) and the time the hearings starts, so you may need to be persistent and combine an email with a phonecall. If you have the name of the judge and can email them directly this may be more effective.
What will I need?
To be ‘duly authorised’ you will need to attend court with :
- picture identification
- completed FP301 ‘Notice of Attendance of duly authorised lawyer’ form (one for each hearing)
- written confirmation of attendance as a non practising lawyer under cover of an HEI or educational charity
If the hearing is remote you will need to send these documents to the court by email in advance.
A lawyer who attends under PD36J cannot have any other connection to the case and must confirm that they are attending for journalistic, public legal education or research purposes.
You might find it helpful to take our information leaflet with you to hand out to those involved in the cases you want to observe.
Will you publish my blog?
Keep in touch with how the scheme is going
Even if you don’t fancy attending court and blogging yourself, you can subscribe to our weekly emails, which contain details of all posts published in the preceding week.
You can read blog posts written under the scheme here.
Can I object to a legal blogger (or journalist) coming into my hearing?
Legal Blogging Scheme Posts
The Justice Committee is currently conducting an inquiry : Open justice: court reporting in the digital age The inquiry is not specific to family justice but it does encompass issues of relevance to the Family Court - so we made written submissions. One of our core...
Alongside the main Transparency Review report, the lead judges of the Financial Remedies Court also published a consultation last month seeking views on a proposed 'reporting permission order' that is envisaged for regulating access to and use of documents by...
I’m on holiday in Greece when I hear about a case involving a mother who has taken her children some 10 hours travel-time from the family home, without their father’s knowledge or consent. It’s a case that involves allegations of domestic abuse, a father who admits he...
PART 4 COMMENT This is the fourth and final part of a four part blog series. Part 1 is here, and links to parts 2 and 3. Reminder : To ensure that the child and family are not identified I am not allowed to reveal whether the child is a boy or a girl, but to make the...
PART 3 : HOW DID YOU DO IT? This is the third part of a four part blog series. Part 1 is here, and links to parts 2 and 4. Reminder : To ensure that the child and family are not identified I am not allowed to reveal whether the child is a boy or a girl, but to make...
PART 2 : THE CASE This is the second part of a four part blog series. Part 1 is here, and links to parts 3 and 4. A reminder: To ensure that the child and family are not identified I am not allowed to reveal whether the child is a boy or a girl, but to make the posts...
PART 1 : INTRODUCTION This series of posts is about a case dealt with in the Family Court at Hull in August, in which a judge ordered a transfer of residence of a young child from the mother’s care into the father’s care, following long running proceedings and...
Recently, we noticed there had been a Parliamentary Question about family courts on 7 June, from Robert Halfon MP, as follows: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps his Department is taking to improve transparency in the Family Court process....
In 2017 we asked the Family Procedure Rule Committee to consider temporarily amending the Family Procedure Rules by way of a temporary pilot scheme to test out allowing 'legal bloggers' into family court hearings, alongside journalists (they have been allowed to...
I recently attended, as a legal blogger, a care hearing conducted in Wales by HHJ Gareth Jones. I’m not going to go into factual details of the case but will make some observations about process in virtual hearings from the point of view of a legal blogger, and about...