Society welcomes expansion of Family Courts pilot

Posted on: January 15, 2024 by Claire Meadows

The Society of Editors has welcomed the planned expansion of a Family Courts pilot which will allow wider media reporting of the work of the Family Courts.

On Monday 29 January 2024, the Transparency Implementation Group Reporting Pilot (TIG), which for the first time made it the default position that the media could report on family cases, will be extended to 16 courts across the country. The pilot started at the family courts in Leeds, Cardiff and Carlisle at the end of January 2023 and will now expand to courts in Liverpool, Manchester, West Yorkshire, Kingston-upon-Hull, Nottingham, Stoke, Derby, Birmingham, the Central Family Court, East London, West London, Dorset, Truro, Luton, Guildford and Milton Keynes.

Responding to the expansion, Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said: “The Society has long supported greater transparency in the Family Courts so the expansion of the pilot is a welcome step to achieving both greater public confidence and understanding of how such often life-changing decisions are made.”

The purpose of the pilot is to trial whether wider reporting can be achieved with minimum disruption to those involved in the cases, and the courts. Previously journalists were allowed to attend Family Court Cases but had to seek the permission of the court to report on it – the pilot has now introduced the presumption that journalists can report what they hear subject to the anonymity of those involved being maintained. Since the start of the pilot in January 2023, the Courts and Tribunals judiciary has acknowledged “groundbreaking coverage” including a mini-series on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and coverage by the BBC, the Sunday Times, the Economist, the Guardian and the Observer as well as the Daily Mail, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and others.

President of the Family Division Sir Andrew McFarlane said “Extending the reporting pilot to family courts across the country is a huge step in the judiciary’s ongoing work to increase transparency and improve public confidence and understanding of the family justice system. After a pioneering year of reporting from Leeds, Cardiff and Carlisle journalists and legal bloggers will be allowed to report from a further sixteen courts.

“We hope than in extending the pilot further we can continue to understand the impact that family court reporting has. I would like to urge the media to read the guidance and come to the family courts to see the vital and challenging work that is done there, and to report on the cases and issues that are so important.”

An online training session for the media will be held on Tuesday 23 January at 5pm. Anyone wishing to attend should email for details.