This blog post originally appeared as the Transparency Project’s monthly column in Family Law for January 2020 at Family Law [[2020] Fam Law 118.

Legal blogging

We were thrilled to be awarded the Bar Pro Bono Innovation award, for our work on the legal blogging pilot, which was collected by one of our bloggers, Alice Twaite at a reception on 6 November. As at the date of writing, we await the result of the voting for commentator of the year at the Lexis Family Law awards, but it is in any event an honour to be shortlisted as a finalist in this category. As readers of last month’s issue will have seen, we were fortunate in being able to arrange legal blogging of the entire Tafida Raqeeb hearing during October by Dr Emma Nottingham ([2019] Fam Law 1476). An article on other experiences of legal blogging will be published in next month’s issue of Family Law.

We’ve had a number of enquiries recently from lawyers who are interested in trying their hand at legal blogging. More information about the pilot and a useful explanatory leaflet for legal bloggers to distribute to the parties in the cases they attend, can be found on the legal bloggers page of The Transparency Project website.

President’s guidance as to reporting in the family courts

The President has recently published the final version of his guidance on applications to relax reporting restrictions (see [2019] Fam Law 1384). We are pleased to see this took on board a number of minor suggestions we had made in our consultation response. We hope the guidance will reassure and assist both lawyers and judges and not just journalists – as was its intention when suggested by Transparency Project member Louise Tickle in the course of her successful appeal against the imposition of a reporting restriction in a case she wished to report on public interest grounds (‘A very big day for freedom of speech’ 2019 Fam Law 415). We offer the following reassurance to professionals: in a number of cases we have attended as legal bloggers it has been perfectly possible to deal with issues around the relaxation of reporting restrictions without controversy and with minimal impact on the smooth running of the hearing, just as the guidance suggests.

President’s Transparency Review

At the time of writing, there is no news other than that the President is forming his panel and we should await further updates. We hope that by the time you read this there will be some announcement of who is on the panel and how the review will work.

Family Procedure Rule Committee

After a gap of almost a year since any minutes of this important committee were published, our requests for them to be uploaded to the site have finally resulted in a batch of minutes appearing. From these we can see that feedback regarding the legal blogging pilot, whilst minimal, has all been positive.

Courts modernisation

There were a number of events and discussions about ‘the future court’ during the autumn, including quite a critical Parliamentary report on the threat to access to justice (HC Justice Committee, Court and Tribunal Reforms HC 190. 31 October 2019). We reported on developments in a blog post on 8 November by Alice Twaite and Judith Townend.

Law in Action

On 11 November, Lucy Reed appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Law in Action programme, interviewed by Joshua Rosenberg about the safety of children subject to private law applications where there are allegations of domestic abuse. Our guide for litigants where domestic abuse is an issue is available for downloading from our website and we have also sent a number of printed copies to advice centres and Support for Court, thanks to funding by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Project news

Sadly, our staff funding has lapsed but we are really pleased that our two former coordinators, Alice Twaite and ‘Annie’ will remain involved. We are also pleased to welcome barrister Malvika Jaganmohan to our project group as of November. We continue to seek guest and regular writers. We are pleased to have secured sponsorship from a number of organisations that will help us to continue our Family Court Reporting Watch and plan some exciting events in coming months – watch this space!

The Transparency Project team