Family Law Hub

Anonymisation of judgments in family cases relating to children

In December 2018 the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, published Practice Guidance: Anonymisation and avoidance of the identification of children and the treatment of explicit descriptions of the sexual abuse of children in judgements intended for the public arena. The context for this article is the President’s current Transparency Review. As part of that review, the President’s call for evidence specifically asks for “Any observations on the Practice Guidance: Anonymisation Guidance and the President’s Guidance as to reporting in the Family courts.”

  • My purpose in writing this article is to set out my own views on that guidance. In particular, I propose to consider (a) the need for the 2018 Practice Guidance concerning anonymisation of judgements, (b) the impact of the 2018 Practice Guidance and (c) the future practice concerning anonymisation of judgments. What follows is an update to and expansion of points made in my recently published book, The 'Secret' Family Court – Fact or Fiction? [1] 

    (a) The need for the 2018 Practice Guidance concerning anonymisation of judgements.

    The issue of transparency in the Family Court is controversial. Some contend that it is important to increase the current level of transparency in order to make the work of the Family Court open to greater scrutiny. Others believe that the process of opening up the Family Court has already gone too far. 

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    [1] The 'Secret' Family Court - Fact or Fiction, published by Bath Publishing in March 2020, is available here. Copies cost £20. All royalties are being donated to Parkinson's UK for research. 

    By His Honour Clifford Bellamy

Article, published: 21/05/2020

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Published: 21/05/2020

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