Following in the footsteps of the Supreme Court, which began broadcasting selected civil cases in late 2018, the Court of Appeal is set to live-stream family cases on the judiciary website, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter with the first hearing anticipated later this year.
The aim of this decision is to promote transparency in the family court, which is often described as being enveloped in a ‘shroud of secrecy’.
Wide-ranging issues of great public importance such as Islamic faith marriages, access to fertility records and transgender identity have come from the family jurisdiction and it is imperative for the courts to allow the public access to see how these decisions are reached.
Due to the sensitive nature and context of family law cases, evidently, there must be limitations on the disclosure of information. Parties will be notified prior to their hearing that their case has been selected and will be given the opportunity to voice any concerns or objections.
In order to provide for safeguarding issues, certain measures shall be put in place. Most notably, there is to be a 90-second delay in the broadcasting enabling the judge or court clerk to discontinue the streaming if required, i.e. if there are any disruptions to the proceedings or any reporting restrictions. The camera is to be focused on the judge’s bench with no inclusion of the parties or witnesses on the screen.
Anonymity can also be granted in order to preserve protection for a party or witness with the discretion as to whether the case should be live-streamed at all being retained to the court.
The live-streaming of cases brings the family courts into the 21st Century and should be seen as a positive insight into the understanding of complex decisions, which could have an impact on many of our lives.