The Family Court Reporting Watch is a new body that will monitor the publication of judgments and media coverage of family courts, highlight and try to secure corrections of inaccurate or misleading reporting and explain complex or controversial cases for non-lawyers. This will be accomplished via clear explanatory blog posts, made accessible to all.
The Family Court Reporting Watch is a new venture set up by the Transparency Project which is funded by the Legal Education Foundation. The Transparency Project was set up in 2014 to combat poor legal understanding, specifically in family law, and to improve the quality of information available to the public.
The team behind the project are a mix of practising and academic lawyers, legal bloggers, social workers, publishers and journalists. They regularly blog about family cases where there is legal or public interest or where there has been inaccurate or inadequate reporting in the press. They also link to a number of sources so that the reader can form their own opinion about the case.
The project is chaired by barrister Lucy Reed who believes that:
“Family law is generally poorly understood by the public (and the media). There are increasing numbers of unrepresented litigants in family court cases, and less access to legal advice. There is widespread mistrust of the family courts and the child protection system. Because family courts operate largely in private, media reports about them are an important route through which the public acquire their understanding of family law and procedure (along with the internet) – they cannot attend court in the way that is possible in other areas. However, much mainstream news and media reporting of family court cases is legally confused, factually highly selective or inaccurate. Although many judgments are publicly available, only cases with certain “newsworthy” characteristics reach the attention of the media. There is poor accessibility and low public understanding of how family law actually works, and a number of unhelpful and dangerous misconceptions and urban myths persist”.