Judge erred in blocking reporter – by Joshua Rozenberg

A circuit judge has said he is “not supportive” of moves to open the family courts to media scrutiny. That policy is not only endorsed by the most senior family judges in England and Wales; it has also been enshrined in law for nearly 15 years.

In remarks that he clearly did not expect to see published, HH Judge Haigh said:

If you want to know my view on the transparency project, it is not supportive. I have always felt these cases are deeply private and my judgments are there really for the parents — to help them, to help the families. They are not for public consumption or to allow press and journalists to further their journalistic ambitions.

Haigh was sitting as a judge of the family court in Manchester when he made these comments on 21 August. Hearings such as these are not open to the public but audio recordings are made by court staff. In a highly unusual move, a more senior judge ordered the entire day’s recording to be transcribed and then allowed the 62-page transcript to be published. It has been edited to ensure that members of the family involved cannot be identified.

Mrs Justice Lieven, the High Court judge who allowed publication of the transcript, said the case being heard by Haigh had been “a not unusual example of the kind of intractable dispute that takes place in the family court”. It involved “highly contentious private family law proceedings concerning a child under the age of five”. There were “allegations of domestic abuse and ‘parental alienation’ in the factual mix”.

Source: Judge erred in blocking reporter – by Joshua Rozenberg

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