Some good news. Two bits actually.
Firstly, the President has recently announced that the Reporting Pilot will be extended to cover Magistrates from October. Better late than never – the pilot will be ten months into its year long run by that time, so unless the pilot is extended there will be a very small window in which to make use of that new element of the scheme. That same document also indicates there is some thought being given to a pilot in relation to Financial Remedy cases, though we don’t really know what that will look like.
Secondly, and the issue that this post is mainly about is this: the long awaited additional codes that will help reporters understand the live issues in cases they are considering observing and reporting on under the current Reporting Pilot are about to go live.
The Transparency Review report published in October 2021 acknowledged there was a need to make court lists more informative in order to encourage and support journalists and legal bloggers to make use of their right of attendance, and that has been even more important in the context of the Reporting Pilot running throughout 2023 in Cardiff, Leeds and Cardiff, where there appears to be some judicial disappointment that there has not been more frequent attendance by reporters.
If reporters don’t know what’s on, they are less likely to make the effort to attend. Attending court for a day or days is not cost neutral. Reporters won’t attend if they are unlikely to be able to see anything of interest or if they can’t report.
In April the President acknowledged in an update that the lists were hampering the pilot and made some suggestions for improvements. It’s taken until now for the codes to actually be implemented (although the smallest pilot court, Carlisle, have been doing its own thing for a bit – we wrote about that here).
In an ‘operational note’, we are given the following information:
Family court reporting pilot – listings code
Family courts taking part in the Transparency Implementation Group reporting pilot will begin to trial the use of a listings code from Monday 24 July.
The code is intended to help journalists covering the family courts in the pilot areas decide which cases may be of interest. The code will accompany the case listing and provide basic detail including whether journalists can attend, whether journalists can report, and what the case involves.
Please note that cases are always subject to change so the initial categorisation may change. The code is indicative only, intended to help journalists report on the family courts.
Cardiff Family Court – from Monday 24 July
Leeds Family Court – from Monday 31 July
Carlisle Family Court – August TBC
A Hearing that reporters are not entitled to attend B Hearing that reporters are entitled to attend but is not within the pilot C Reporting pilot case
1 Alleged neglect 2 Alleged physical harm 3 Alleged sexual harm 4 Alleged emotional harm 5 Alleged Domestic abuse 6 Alleged FGM 7 Alleged trafficking 8 Deprivation of Liberty/Secure Accommodation 9 Contact issues/prolonged period of no contact 10 Factitious or induced illness 11 Schooling 12 Medical treatment 13 Relocation (in jurisdiction) 14 Relocation (out of jurisdiction)
This is definitely good news, and will not have been easy to achieve.
We’re pleased as well, that after some initial confusion arising from the fact that the operational note was marked ‘not for publication’, the Judicial Press Office confirmed there was no problem with us publishing this information. Otherwise, we pointed out, it would be a bit pointless going to the trouble of using the codes, as nobody would be able to decipher them. It’s now been clarified that the codes will be published on the judiciary website – but experience tells us that might take a while to show up so we’re putting them here in the hope that they will be accessed by reporters and made use of as soon as possible.
For any reporter wanting to rely on this new system, it’s probably worth checking the judiciary website (we’ll add the link when we know it for sure, but probably the reporting pilot page) for updates as these new arrangements are a trial and might be tweaked after this post is published. Hopefully this information will be signposted from the Courtserve pages where the lists are hosted.
*UDPATE (later that day:): listing code doc is already up and is on the reporting pilot page linked to above.*
We also note, by the way, that a new listing system is being trialled in some courts. We are having a play with that to see if its better, worse or much the same. The MOJ Open Justice Consultation that is currently open suggests it will be fully rolled out by the end of 2023. Watch this space…
Feature pic door out of order: copyright Lucy Reed