3 November 2021

Matthew Brunsdon-Tully quoted in New Law Journal on Family Courts transparency proposals

Family Partner, Matthew Brunsdon-Tully’s comments have been published in the New Law Journal article ‘Family Courts: Transparency Fears’.

On the transparency proposals, Matthew warned: "Relatively recent changes in 2014 giving the media greater ability to attend family cases have not had the desired effect and instead a largely negative and unrepresentative drip-drip of concerning stories in the press has continued, with only substantial and equally unrepresentative appeals (often "glitzy big-money international divorces"), frequently heard in open court, making their way into the public consciousness".

The full article was first published in New Law Journal and can be found here.


Family lawyers have expressed concerns over ‘revolutionary’ proposals by the president of the Family Division for greater transparency

Sir Andrew McFarlane’s proposed a ‘major shift in culture’ where family judges are expected to publish at least 10% of the judgments each year, in his report last week, ‘In confidence and confidentiality: transparency in the family courts’.

His report proposes more meetings between the media and judges, allowing individuals involved in a case to talk to journalists, and for accredited journalists and bloggers not only to attend and observe hearings but report publicly on the hearings while respecting individuals’ private information and ensuring children are not identified.

Emily Foy, senior associate, Payne Hicks Beach, said enhanced transparency was ‘long overdue’ but a ‘delicate balance’ must be struck with protective safeguards ‘to avoid jigsaw identification’.

However, Collyer Bristow partner Philippa Dolan said: ‘This will all be about the number of handbags or girlfriends that litigants have, as opposed to a mature debate about legal principles.

‘It’s different with public law cases where, for example, children are removed from their parents in our name. We should be told what’s going on…But there is little but prurience behind the clamour for more personal information to pick over – and social media will make the whole exercise ever more toxic.’

Forsters partner Matthew Brunsdon-Tully warned: ‘Relatively recent changes in 2014 giving the media greater ability to attend family cases have not had the desired effect and instead a largely negative and unrepresentative drip-drip of concerning stories in the press has continued, with only substantial and equally unrepresentative appeals (often "glitzy big-money international divorces"), frequently heard in open court, making their way into the public consciousness.’

Mark Harper, partner, Hughes Fowler Carruthers, said the review would provide more transparency but ‘also opens the door to potentially dangerous outcomes for children – from mental health to hesitancy to testify, who, through no fault of their own, are forced to have one of the most difficult times of their lives made publicly available for years to come.

‘Justifying decisions in children’s cases should not take priority over protecting children and the identities of them and their parents. Most worryingly about this report were findings that children will be unwilling or less willing to talk to a clinician about ill-treatment or disputes about their care, or about their wishes and feelings once they are told a reporter might be in court.’

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