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The Transparency Reporting Pilot

February 2024

Every year, thousands of families are deeply affected by the decisions made by the Family Court. Historically, very little was known to the public about how the Court operated, often leading to the family justice system being criticised for being too secretive.

To address these concerns, the Transparency Reporting Pilot (‘the Pilot’) was introduced in the Family Courts of Leeds, Carlisle and Cardiff in January 2023. Following a successful year, the Pilot was extended to a total of 16 Family Courts in England and Wales on 29 January 2024. 

The Pilot authorises accredited journalists and ‘legal bloggers’ to report on what they see and hear during Family Court proceedings. Reporters will also have access to confidential court documents and be able to engage in discussions with parties to the proceedings.

Before publicising their observations, reporters will need to obtain a Transparency Order from the court, which sets out exactly what they may or may not publicise in each individual case. Additionally, reporters must anonymise the parties to ensure that their identity is not disclosed.

The implementation of the Pilot is significant as it represents a departure from legislation that previously prevented the publication of this material. For the first time, hundreds of Family Court cases are now reported on in mainstream media including BBC News, The Daily Mail and The Guardian.

With this new transparency, the Pilot is credited with improving public understanding and confidence in the family justice system, as first-hand reports of family cases (including specifics of the court’s procedures and decision-making processes) are now available to the public.

This is crucial because, statistically, a significant proportion of the population will become embroiled in legal proceedings following the breakdown of a relationship. The Pilot enables the public and parties to approach proceedings with greater confidence, understanding and clarity.   

The Pilot has also improved public confidence in the family justice system. Reporters are now able to name the professionals involved in the court proceedings, including the Judges, legal representatives and local authority workers. Where this information is publicly available, the public will be able to scrutinise the decisions and actions of these professionals. This scrutiny, in turn, may lead to professionals “upping their game”, ultimately improving the system and ensuring a better outcome for the parties.

Following the extension of the Transparency Reporting Pilot, the judiciary has continued to review its impact. So far, the reviews have suggested that the Pilot has significantly increased public trust and confidence in the family courts whilst protecting the parties’ confidentiality. If the Pilot’s positive effects persist, it is possible that it will eventually become a permanent fixture and be extended to all Family Courts in England and Wales.

At Lawrence Stephens, our Family team offers bespoke advice and a wide range of services including divorces, both domestic and international, financial settlements and claims involving overseas assets, for a diverse range of clients including professionals and HNW individuals.