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Does the media have access to family proceedings? Samina Aslam explains

If you are unsure about whether the media or members of the public have access to family related court hearings, rest assured, as there is fresh new guidance for lawyers and their clients.

Judges and journalists for once got together to talk, joined forces and greatly clarified this area, by publishing The Family Courts: Media Access and Reporting July 2011.

The publication is exactly what it says on the tin. It sets out the rules and restrictions on the public and on media access to court hearings, hearings in private, court documents and reporting on final decisions of cases in the press.

The document is also the first to bring together all the relevant statutes with a view to setting out the current state of the law in this area. How convenient is that?

From a practical viewpoint, it is clear from the multitude of rules and exceptions in this area that the courts face a real challenge dealing with competing interests - between protecting privacy of vulnerable individuals and the principle of open justice. As the report says at its start; "There is no more difficult issue in family justice than the reporting of cases. There is a tension between concerns about "secret justice" and legitimate expectations of privacy and confidentiality for the family. Both standpoints are valid, and the question is whether they are irreconcilable."

Overall, this is a great document and serves its purpose well, click here to access the guide.