Most Family Court orders have some sort of confidentiality warning on them these days., especially in cases about children Typically they warn that the names of the children and family members must not be published.

The template orders and precedent libraries that lawyers and judges use to help them prepare these orders have recently been updated and revised. One of the changes we’ve noticed is a change to the recommended wording on confidentiality.

The new wording is as follows:

Confidentiality warnings

Until the conclusion of the proceedings no person shall publish to the public at large or any section of the public without the court’s permission any material which is intended or likely to identify the child[ren] as being involved in these proceedings or an address or school as being that of the child[ren]. Any person who does so is guilty of an offence.

Further, during the proceedings or after they have concluded no person shall publish information related to the proceedings including accounts of what has gone on in front of the judge, documents filed in the proceedings, transcripts or notes of evidence and submissions, and transcripts and notes of judgments (including extracts, quotations, or summaries of such documents). Any person who does so may be in contempt of court.

Information related to the proceedings must not be communicated to any person other than as allowed by Rules 12.73 or 12.75 or Practice Direction 12G of the Family Procedure Rules 2010.

The first part of this is a summary of the effect of s97 Children Act 1989, which automatically applies to any case about children.

The second bit is a summary of the effect of s12 Administration of Justice Act 1960, which also automatically applies to any case about children heard in private (which most are).

The third bit is a reminder that the Family Procedure Rules allow some information sharing that would otherwise not be allowed because of s97 or s12, as long as it falls within the list of exceptions set out in the rules or the Practice Directions mentioned.

We think this is a great improvement.

Orders going forward should have these clearer warnings on them as a matter of course. However, in practice these new forms of words and adjusted templates take time to bed in. If you have the opportunity please signpost lawyers or judges to the correct wording to speed up the process. The new template orders can be found here.

For the avoidance of doubt though, all these warnings do is TELL people what the law already is. They are a notice not an order imposed, and they don’t change anything in terms of what is and is not allowed. These prohibitions are AUTOMATIC and apply in every case without the court needing to do anything. Ignorance of the law is generally no defence, so even if the warning is not quite right, it does not mean people can go off and share information they would not otherwise have been allowed to share, or that they can do so without any risk of being punished if they do.

Feature Pic: Copyright Lucy Reed

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