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New draft guidance has been published to assist judges in better and more consistent anonymisation practices in published judgments concerning children and young people.
The draft guidance has been produced by Julia Brophy and funded by the Nuffield Foundation. It is supported by the Association for Lawyers for children and builds on a stream of work regarding the privacy, welfare and safeguarding needs of children in the context of the ‘transparency’ agenda for family courts.
The guidance develops findings from a review of children judgments on Bailii (2015) regarding geographical and personal identifiers and the potential for jigsaw identification of children, and concerns about explicit descriptions of the sexual abuse of children in a document placed in the public domain.
The guidance has not been approved by the President of the Family Division, but has been published in draft so that he can consider it before issuing any formal guidance on this subject.
Context – improving transparency and privacy in family courts
Over several years research has identified concerns about the privacy and safeguarding needs of children involved in court proceedings – most recently in a review of children judgments on the website of the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII). In addition, there are concerns about the extent to which the information that is available to the public is an accurate representation of the work of the family courts.
As well as funding Julia Brophy and the Association of Lawyers for Children to produce new guidance, the Nuffield Foundation is also funding Dr Julie Doughty from Cardiff University Law School to evaluate the responses to, and effects of, guidance issued by the President of the Family Division to make more of their judgments publicly available.
The project will analyse patterns in the published judgments; media coverage of the family courts; and the views of judges and other key stakeholders on public legal education and safe reporting. Findings will be published later in 2016.