Law lecturer co-authors transparency guide for family law practitioners

3 May 2018

A new book designed to help practitioners of family courts has been co-authored by a Cardiff Law lecturer.

Transparency in the Family Courts: Publicity and Privacy in Practice has been written by Law lecturer at the School of Law and Politics, Dr Julie Doughty,practising barrister Lucy Reed, and Head of Product Development and Online Content at the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR), Paul Magrath. Sir Andrew McFarlane, recently announced as President of the Family Division of the High Court from July 2018, has contributed a foreword to the book.

The law on publicity and privacy in family court proceedings has been subject to considerable change during the past 15 years but, rather than being clarified, has probably become more complex. To help with this issue, Dr Doughty’s new book aims to provide practitioners in family courts, representing all parties, with an explanation of the relevant law in different types of cases and circumstances, so that they are well-equipped to advise their clients on their remedies, rights, and obligations with regard to what is now popularly referred to as ‘transparency’.

Transparency is a multifaceted issue in family justice. Accusations of ‘secret’ courts and unaccountability generate distrust, but concerns have also been raised about the potential risks to children involved in cases that are reported about within the public domain.

The book sets out the law and practice about how much publicity is lawful and proportionate in cases which are held in private or relate to private information.

Dr Doughty is an expert on the issue of transparency within family courts having carried out a research project in 2016 which was funded by The Nuffield Foundation. This study analysed patterns in published judgments; media coverage of the family courts; and the views of key stakeholders.

As Dr Doughty explains, "There is a considerable misunderstanding about what can and cannot be shared, reported and published from family courts regarding cases that range from divorce to child protection. While our book is designed primarily for legal practitioners, we hope that it will also help journalists and social workers engage with the issues of safely reporting on family justice, especially in the internet era, where almost anyone can be a publisher."

Further information on Transparency in the Family Courts: Publicity and Privacy in Practice can be found on the Bloomsbury Professional website where it is also available to purchase.