Thousands of family hearings that take place behind closed doors will be opened to media this month, Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said yesterday.
Under the reform, accredited media will be able to attend all levels of family courts from April 27, removing the inconsistency of access between magistrates’ courts, which are generally open, and the county and high courts, which are closed.
Courts will still be able to restrict attendance if a child’s welfare requires it or if it is necessary to do so for the safety and protection of parties or witnesses. Parties to cases will be able to make representations to a court if they feel that there are good reasons for excluding journalists.
The Justice Ministry said that journalists who attended family courts would have to be accredited through the British press card scheme, which has a wide membership and is open to those working wholly or mainly in the media.
The scheme is not open to bloggers, those who write occasional newsletters or to foreign media.