Correcting, clarifying or commenting on media reports of family court cases

Explaining or commenting on published judgments of family court cases

Highlighting other transparency news


The Times, the Guardian and others – Most papers covered the government’s published response to their consultation on divorce reform, Reducing Family Conflict. See the Guardian, the Times (here and here – sorry pay walled), and MOJ news here and here. Jo Edwards commented on some of the headlines for us in Finding fault in the reporting of no fault divorce. Guest post blog to follow too on some myths surrounding what research says for legal reform:

The Independent and BBC News Reported the Parental Rights (Rapists) and Family Courts Bill, introduced by Louise Haigh, MP, on Wednesday, without interrogating the examples claimed to show the need for it. (Ditto Rights Info here). We’ve commented previously on evidential limitations of otherwise important Women’s Aid research, Nineteen Child Homicides, as a basis for specific legal reform; the absence of adequate information yet from which to draw conclusions about recent reports of a judicial comment the Press Association recorded from the Court of Protection; and the current law on giving notice of care proceedings. (The new Bill calls for a public inquiry into the way the family courts treat domestic abuse and violence to women; for parental responsibility to be terminated on conviction for rape; and for measures to reverse the presumptions about notice of proceedings such as to require a father who has fathered a child though rape to obtain the permission of the court before applying for a section 8 order / requiring the court to presume, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of such an individual will be contrary to the child’s welfare):

The Times – In our last Roundup we highlighted a cluster of recent reports of teenagers said to have been taken into care because their parents disagreed with their gender identity treatment plans (the Sun; and the Mail here and here). The Times last week kept a spotlight on what it describes as ‘cases and controversies’ about the evidence base for interventions being provided to children by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust’s specialist Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS). See Psychiatrists to draw up guidelines for treatment of child gender issues that suggests that the Department of Health is still considering a review and that the Royal College of Psychiatrists notes the research base is as yet inadequate but may draw up new guidelines; The Times has also published Calls to end transgender ‘experiment on children’; Times Editorial ‘The NHS needs to establish its protocols rather than leave difficult ethical decisions to the Tavistock clinic’; and Times letters (sorry all paywalled). The new ‘internal report‘ the Times don’t link to is here. The original Bell report is no longer published so far as we know. See also Baroness Blackwood’s 11 March response to a parliamentary question, confirming a research grant from the National Institute for Health Research to GIDS for a longitudinal outcomes study following up children and young people aged 13 years and below, referred to GIDS and the suggestion that GIDS is uniquely placed to conduct that research internally; Safeguarding LGBT+ adolescents (January 2019) and The importance of an appropriate understanding of the literature (March 2019) in response at the BMJ; and Missing their Story: How a media furore meant we missed the bigger picture on trans and non binary rights at Rights Info. The Merseyside Equality Consortium are offering a Liverpool based conference on Friday 26 April to ‘address the increasing concerns of educational professionals in the Merseyside area in how best to support gender diverse children in their care.’

Transparency Positive & Linker of the Week

Tortoise – Reported on whether we are taking too many children (particularly babies) into care, and on some of the dangerous advice apparently filling a growing vacuum of lost trust, and inadequate support / early legal advice. See Separated by Polly Curtis with links to key source material and a commitment to further detailed investigations. (See also recent reports from BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and BBC Stories). We plan to attend the Tortoise ‘Think In’ (see Diary Dates below). We highlighted the launch of Byline last week and will also write about the launch of Tortoise and other new alternative media providers when we can:


The Metro (based on a Press Association report) – The Metro (and some local news outlets) reported a family court judgment in a very sad case, involving judicial departure from expert evidence to find a traumatic head injury was not caused by deliberate shaking, but did not allow their readers to see the judgment intended for the public. We wrote briefly last week about the importance of public understanding and nuanced reporting of the complex task for the family courts (not to mention the families affected) of deciding possible traumatic head injury cases:


Ipekçi v McConnell [2019] – We explained the law behind Mr Justice Mostyn’s decision to depart from a pre nuptial agreement and commented on responses to the Times’ report of it. See Giving hope to all concierges who date cosmetics heiresses* (not). See also Times comment and twitter here:

(See also this twitter thread on the reporting restriction in the ‘rubric’ heading the judgment: The judge grants leave for the judgment to be published in this form as he is not satisfied that it could be intelligibly anonymised. However, in any report of the case the children of the family may not be identified nor may any photographs of them or their parents be published. Breach of these restrictions will amount to a contempt of court):

XW v XH [2019] – Published judgment from a Court of Appeal decision to grant a wife’s application for an order that the same reporting restrictions should apply to her forthcoming appeal in that court as had applied in the Family Court below. (Normally, appeals are heard in open court in the Court of Appeal, even if they were in private in the court below. That’s what happened in the case of Norman v Norman [2017] EWCA Civ 49[2017] WLR (D) 82). But in this case, having carried out the balancing exercise between the human right to privacy under article 8 of the Human Rights Convention with the right to freedom of expression under article 10, the court decided the circumstances justified continuing the restrictions. The ICLR has a helpful free case summary.

A Metropolitan District Council v M & Ors [2019] – Published judgment from Mr Justice Holman sitting in the Leeds family court. Interesting for the robust care taken to redact all potential identifying material relating to children, where one had suffered penetrative genital injuries caused by a sibling.  Including the identity of the council and professionals. Whilst it’s right to have removed full birth dates to prevent identification, it seems unhelpful that the broad ages of the sibling group are not provided and a shame that the (no doubt) careful balancing exercise that took place in making the decision to anonymise the council and professionals whilst also acknowledging professional’s failures also falls outside the judgment.


Public Legal Education – We reviewed this new gender-neutral resource for separating parents that’s had great feedback. See 101 questions for See 101 questions answered about separating with children by Emily Ward:

The future of journalism – We recently reviewed the newly launched Discover Leveson, a comprehensive and interactive online research archive of evidence and publications of the Leveson Inquiry into press misconduct. We’ve also now commented on the launch of Byline Times, one of several newly launched alternative media providers. See Byline Times: a new approach to journalism? from Paul Magrath. (Note also this Press Gazette report of Impress setting up a task-force to promote implementation of the Cairncross Review recommendations, and a new era of high-quality and diverse journalism in the public interest.):

Public trust and social work: Camden Conversations – The full report and summary from this pioneering family-led child protection enquiry at Camden Council is here with a summary. Surviving Safeguarding who was part of the review explains here at Community Care. (Annie/ AKA Surviving Safeguarding is also a project coordinator at the Transparency Project). Recommendations to the Board from the review (already underway) include developing peer advocacy and changes to the way child protection conferences are held (including review of the way language is used, feedback is gathered and supported is offered to families before, during and after the child protection process):

Digital reform of the family courts – HMCTS have published the recording of their presentations, demonstration and Q&A (plus slides) from their online event on digital reform of the family courts (public and private):

Legal Aid – Lady Hale’s speech to the Legal Action Group, Legal Aid at 70 was published at the Supreme Court site and focuses on legal aid in a family context:

Judicial transparency and public understanding Paul Magrath of ICLR (also a Trustee at the Transparency Project) commented on different ways judges promote public understanding and respect for what they do. See From Mystery to Transparency:


Wednesday 1st May 2019: Tortoise ‘Think In’ Slower, wiser news provider Tortoise’s first piece on the relationship between state and family (Separated, from Polly Curtis) offers an invitation to ThinkIn’s in their newsroom on May 1st at 6.30pm, and on the road in Sunderland at 11am on 22nd May. Get in touch at if interested:

Tuesday 14th May 10-11pm: Law Works will be live- streaming a Webinar on Legal aid after the government review of LASPO (not specific to family law):

Tuesday 21st May, Conference for Access to justice providers – Register here for this free one day Sharing Solutions Conference from Legal Voice, Advice Services Alliance and LiP Support Strategy and the Access to Justice Foundation (not specific to family law):

Feature pic: Courtesy of Flickr Lauri Heikkinen via CreativeCommons licence – with thanks