Skip to main content

Family Courts

Volume 480: debated on Friday 17 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent steps the Government has taken to improve public accountability of the family courts. (227310)

The Ministry of Justice has consulted twice about improving the accountability and openness of family courts. Central to this openness has been recognition of the need for better provision of information about the work of the family courts. There are clear benefits to the public having access to a record of the decisions courts have made, which reflects the public interest in the due administration of justice.

In July 2007 we announced our intention to pilot the provision of written judgments when a final order is made in certain family cases. The courts in the pilot areas will for the first time routinely produce for county court and High Court cases, a written record of the court's decision, i.e. a hard copy of a judgment. Family Proceedings Courts will continue to provide the written reasons, which they are already required to do. The judgments or written reasons will be: (1) issued to the parties, (2) retained on the court file for the child to access on reaching adulthood, should they choose to do so; and (3) made anonymous and published online for the public to view.

Providing judgments to the parties is intended to help those who have been through proceedings to understand why decisions were reached. Publication of anonymised judgments online is intended to improve perceptions of the family courts within society.

The Government are committed to improving the transparency and accountability of family courts, while protecting those most vulnerable in society. My Department intends to make further detailed announcement on the pilot soon.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice when his Department expects to publish its substantive response to its consultation on Confidence and confidentiality: openness in family courts - a new approach. (227311)

I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 14 October 2008, Official Report, column 1031W, to the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd).