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Judge urges media access to family courts

7 July 2006

Lord Justice Wall has called for the press to be given access to proceedings in family courts.

In a speech at the Association of Lawyers for Children’s annual lecture in memory of Allan Levy QC and David Hershman, he said that allowing the media to report on proceedings would help defeat the perception of secrecy in the family justice system.

But he said that there should be “clear ground rules” about what the press should be able to report.

Echoing comments made by Sir Mark Potter in Clayton v Clayton [2006] EWCA Civ 878, Wall LJ said he found it “unacceptable that conscientious judges and magistrates up and down the country, doing their best, with inadequate resources and under heavy pressure of work to make difficult decisions in the best interests of children, should be accused of administering ‘secret’ justice”.

In Clayton, a divorced father said he should be allowed to use pictures of his daughter, whom he had abducted to Portugal some years earlier, in a film retracing his experience of the family justice system.

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