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Names listed in family court cases

Published 16/06/2015

The move follows calls by judges for greater transparency
The move follows calls by judges for greater transparency

The names of people involved in family court cases are starting to appear on public listings in a break with tradition.

Surnames of parties are featuring in some cases on listings at the Central Family Court in London.

The move follows calls for more transparency in family justice from the most senior family court judge in England and Wales.

Listings of public hearings in criminal courts and most civil courts usually feature the names of people involved.

But traditionally family courts cases are heard in private and are listed only by their case numbers - which indicate whether cases involve divorce money disputes or disputes relating to the care of children - in order to protect children.

Journalists have the right to listen to private family court hearings but judges can impose strict limits on what can be reported - and members of the public are barred.

Court officials say surnames are featuring on lists for cases where divorcing couples are embroiled in disputes over money - not on lists of cases directly involving children

"The only names that will appear on any published lists are for divorce and financial work," said a spokeswoman HM Courts & Tribunals Service.

"No names will appear for any adoption, public or private law cases."

Cases in the Family Division of the High Court in London are generally still being listed in traditional fashion.

Nearly two years ago, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales said there was a ''pressing need'' for much more transparency in the family justice system.

Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division of the High Court, said the public had a right to know ''what is being done in their name''.

The judge said the public had a compelling interest in knowing how family courts ''exercise their care jurisdiction''.

His comments came in a written ruling on a case relating to the welfare of a baby.

Earlier this month, another senior family court judge said family courts must be more transparent.

Mr Justice Holman said family court judges have to be exposed to public scrutiny and gaze.

He was speaking after deciding that a divorce money dispute involving a wealthy lawyer and his estranged wife would sit in public.

A Liberal Democrat politician who campaigns for improvements in the family justice system welcome the move.

"I am pleased to see further progress on transparency," said former MP John Hemming.

"However, it is still the case that academics are not allowed to do quality control on family court documents even if everything is anonymised.

"The woefully low quality of many family court expert reports is why things go wrong and foreign countries are complaining."

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