A pilot scheme which enables direct reporting on family cases has been extended to 16 more courts.

The Transparency Implementation Group Reporting Pilot or TIG was launched in January 2023 to explore the feasibility of increasing reporting rights in family courts without affecting safety or causing disruption. Accredited media representatives and legal bloggers, attending the family courts at Leeds, Cardiff and Carlisle could now request a ‘transparency order’ enabling much more extensive reporting than was previously possible, as long as they observed strict rules on anonymity for children and individual social workers.

The TIG pilot represented the very first time journalists had been allowed to quote from family court documents other than published judgements, describe events in the courtroom and even speak to families.

Initially the scheme only covered care proceedings, but it was later extended to include private disputes involving children.

Now the pilot has been extended to additional courts across England, namely:

  • Luton
  • Guildford
  • Milton Keynes
  • Truro
  • Dorset
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester
  • Hull
  • West Yorkshire
  • Central Family Court
  • East London
  • West London
  • Nottingham
  • Birmingham
  • Stoke
  • Derby

Reporting from the new courts will follow the same trajectory as the initial three: initially limited to care proceedings, it will later be extended to private family cases and magistrates’ hearings.

Since the launch of the pilot, a number of high-profile organisations have delivered pioneering reports from family courts, including the Guardian, the Sunday Times, BBC Radio 4 and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

As President of the Family Division of the Hight Court, Sir Andrew McFarlane is the most senior family law judges in the country. He said:

“Extending the reporting pilot to family courts across the country is a huge step in the judiciary’s ongoing work to increase transparency and improve public confidence and understanding of the family justice system…We hope that in extending the pilot further we can continue to understand the impact that family court reporting has. I would like to urge the media to read the guidance and come to the family courts to see the vital and challenging work that is done there, and to report on the cases and issues that are so important.”

Joanne Major is Managing Director of northern specialist law Major Family Law. She said:

“Family courts intervene in some of the most emotional and personal aspects of people’s lives, and that makes public confidence in them vital. Responsible, managed access for the media can only further that goal and help to counter the sensationalism and distortions we have all too often seen in the media up till now, with no compromise to the anonymity protections provided to the most vulnerable individuals involved in each case.”