Here at Paul Crowley, we personally welcome any changes in policy which are intended to improve the understanding of the court process and to increase the confidence the general public has in the system.
Last week, Sir James Munby, who is president of the family division of the high court and of the court of the protection, ordered that more judgments of secretive hearings be published.
Although they will often be anonymised, the policy, which will come into effect from 3 February, means that more details will now be released from sensitive domestic abuse cases.
Sir James Munby has instructed judges that in many cases, unless there are compelling reasons not to do so, the starting point should be to give permission for publication of cases.
The reason for the change in the policy is to try and increase the confidence that the general public has in the court system and to improve the publics understanding of the court process.
Publishing more court judgements should also reduce incorrect reporting by journalists. It is obviously difficult to report on a case if the details are not available to look at, which means that details are often misinterpreted.
Sir James Munby says “At present too few judgments are made available to the public, which has a legitimate interest in being able to read what is being done by the judges in its name.”
He adds “Children and their families and those who are the subjects of court of protection cases – individuals who are unable for whatever reason to make their own decisions about issues such as medical treatment or living arrangements – will normally continue to be anonymous in judgments, the names of expert witnesses, local authorities and other public bodies should be included unless there are compelling reasons against doing so.”
Obviously the general public may not agree with every court judgement that is published, therefore there are risks that the general public could become frustrated with decisions. However, I feel that it is imperative that the public have the ability to look at details of court cases, if they wish.
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