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11 July 2019

NMA Welcomes New Guidance For Reporting In The Family Courts

The News Media Association has welcomed a consultation on new draft guidance for reporting in the family courts saying that it “strongly endorses” the approach of encouraging courts to hear informal representations instead of requiring formal media applications.

In its response to a consultation by the President of the Family Division on the new draft guidance, the NMA also welcomed a forthcoming transparency review to facilitate greater understanding of the family courts.

“The NMA and its members have therefore valued their longstanding dialogue with the senior judiciary, Ministers, the Law Officers, Government departments, HMCTS and others,” the NMA said.  

“These have all helped to promote open justice and facilitate public understanding of the courts, avoiding unnecessary restrictions upon the media’s access to the courts, court proceedings, court documentation and media reporting of the courts and the wider issues raised by matters before them.”

“The NMA therefore warmly welcomes the announcement of the forthcoming transparency review. We hope that the review will include detailed consultation of the media, including the NMA and its members. We would be very happy to facilitate consultation, meetings and discussions with national, regional and local news publishers, editors, court reporters and their inhouse legal advisors.” 

The NMA said it would be very helpful if the draft guidance could make opening reference to the overriding importance of the principle of open justice and the role of the media and its relevance to the family courts.

The NMA also stressed the crucial importance in practice of courts’ provision of sufficient advance information in the listing of family cases, so that editors can ascertain which proceedings are likely to raise matters of significant public interest and ensure that a reporter will attend the court.

The guidance should make clear that the media should be given advance notice of any application for a discretionary reporting restriction in every case, and have the opportunity to make representations against its imposition at the court’s hearing of any application for reporting restrictions or restrictions on media access, the NMA added.