This blog post originally appeared as an article in the April issue of Family Law at  Fam Law 437(2).
The Transparency Project has a new patron
The Transparency Project is very pleased to report that Clifford Bellamy, recently retired Circuit Judge and former Designated Family Judge, has agreed upon his retirement to act as our first Patron. We hope that Clifford will contribute to future columns from time to time.
Ground-breaking appeal in transparency
In February 2019, the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal by journalist (and Transparency Project member) Louise Tickle, in connection with the reporting of a family court matter, in which she successfully argued a reporting restriction order had been wrongly made. Quite apart from documenting just how bewildering and expensive it was to take an appeal to the Court of Appeal (Louise crowdfunded her court fees and was represented pro bono by Paul Bowen QC and Sarah Phillimore and tweeted her progress throughout the process), Louise’s appeal was important for a number of reasons:
It exposed the inconsistency of approach when a journalist seeks permission to report a case or when a party seeks to have restrictions imposed and the urgent need for guidance in this area.
The Court of Appeal permitted live tweeting of the appeal by @georgejulian (see #RROAppeal).
The Court of Appeal followed the approach set out in the skeleton argument prepared by Paul Bowen QC by referring to journalists and legal bloggers in one breath.
It prompted a renewed debate and, we hope, increased awareness about the balancing act that must be conducted in each case when it is said that Art 10 rights should be restricted, and provided yet another reminder of the need for those who assert a risk of jigsaw identification that evidence is required of that risk and any harm that might ensue.
Most importantly, the appeal, which was heard by the President of the Family Division and Lady Justice King, prompted the President to state clearly that he will now consult on revised guidance in this area, following the publication of Anonymisation Guidance in December 2018 without consultation or any contextualising preface (see  Fam Law 325 and  Fam Law 203 by our Alice Twaite and Annie Bertram respectively). The President’s office has indicated we can expect this in June 2019 which, we note, will coincide with the currently scheduled end date of the 9-month legal blogging pilot (PD 36J).
Having sat through the appeal hearing itself, we think that this appeal and the response of the appellate judges to it is an indicator of the increasing appreciation of the importance of transparency, even as the system strives to balance it with the privacy of individuals. You can read our write-up of Louise’s appeal on The Transparency Project blog (‘Tickle’s Triumph an independent journalist succeeds in her appeal to secure the right to report on a family case and prompts new guidance’, 15 Feb 2019) and Louise’s write-ups on her Open Family Court blog at www.openfamilycourt.org.uk and in the May issue of Family Law.
On 15 May 2019, we are re-running our successful workshop for lawyers: ‘Journalists and legal bloggers attending family courts’. The workshop is intended for lawyers who are interested in brushing up their ‘transparency’ knowledge whether with a view to taking part in the scheme themselves, or so they feel better prepared for responding to attendances by legal bloggers or journalists in cases where they are instructed. We know that for most advocates the attendance of a journalist at hearings is a rare event, and often catches people by surprise, even more so where legal bloggers are concerned. What is the law and procedure? How should you advise your client, and how should you respond to any application these reporters might make? Whilst we are keen to encourage lawyers to become aware of and involved in the legal blogging pilot, the purpose of the event is wider than that to inform and advise on what restrictions on publication would apply or how the pilot scheme operates in the event that a legal blogger does attend court.
Our aim is to assist advocates to best serve the interests of their clients whether parent, child or local authority. We would also like to take the opportunity to gather any feedback from participants on the issues that may be emerging from the pilot scheme and their experiences of it or worries about it. The event will take place in Bristol. Please visit our events page for more details of how to book.
Chair, The Transparency Project