Law lecturer awarded grant for family justice research
22 February 2016
Dr Julie Doughty of the School of Law and Politics has been awarded a grant by the Nuffield Foundation to evaluate the responses to, and effects of, judicial guidance on publishing family court judgments involving children and young people.
Transparency is a very troubling issue in family justice. Accusations of ‘secret’ courts and unaccountability generate distrust but concerns have also been raised about risks to children of more publicity from cases in which they are involved. Courts try to achieve a balance between individual competing interests and rights, but the law is complex and confusing. Efforts at law reform over the past decade have failed. Extreme views are expressed on both sides; it may seem that the opposing arguments are irreconcilable.
In January 2014, the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, issued guidance to judges across England and Wales to make more of their judgments freely available online. However, Dr Doughty and colleagues have found limitations and inconsistencies in the way this system has operated over the past two years.
It is difficult for professionals, involved groups and the media to engage with each other without an evidence base about what is being published. There is a risk of stalemate, or ill-informed decisions being made about future steps in achieving transparency. Dr Doughty’s research aims to address this by analysing patterns in the published judgments; media coverage of the family courts; and the views of key stakeholders on public legal education and safe reporting.
It is anticipated that a report on the outcomes of the research will be available in late autumn 2016.