Court of Appeal to live-stream and Cafcass cases: The last week in family law Court of Appeal to live-stream family cases

Family hearings at the
Court of Appeal are to be live-streamed, under a joint initiative by the
judiciary and government to boost transparency in the justice system. A
statutory instrument laid in Parliament on the 12th of March paved
the way for the project, following the success of a pilot to live-stream civil
cases launched in 2018. Family cases that reach the Court of Appeal include certain
divorce or care proceedings. The move will mean that these cases could be
broadcast online to increase public understanding – with the first hearing
expected later this year. Safeguarding measures will be in place including a
delay to the live-stream, giving judges the ability to halt the broadcasting
immediately if necessary. Sir Terence Etherton, The Master of the Rolls, and
Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division said:

“We
are delighted that the Government has taken forward our initiative of
livestreaming the court of appeal civil division.

“Being
open about what happens in court is critical for public confidence and
understanding of the work which the judiciary undertakes. For centuries our
court rooms have been open to the public. Livestreaming brings the public
gallery into the 21st century and we are delighted that we can make the
difficult and important work of the Court of Appeal Civil Division open to the
broadest possible audience.

“Many
of our most significant cases come from the family jurisdiction. It is only
right that cases of such wide public importance are made open to the public.
Recent examples of cases looking at issues such as Islamic faith marriage,
access to fertility records, or transgender identity are of interest to the
public and it is important for the public to see how the court approaches these
issues.

“We
are of course mindful that in some cases, full public access would not be
appropriate, we will ensure that those involved in such cases remain protected.”

Anonymity can also be
awarded due heightened sensitivity of family cases, be that for the protection
of a party or a witness, and the court retains the discretion not to
live-stream a hearing at all. Parties will be informed prior to the hearing
whether it has been selected for the pilot and given the chance to raise any
objections. Nominated cases will be live-streamed on the judiciary website,
YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Cafcass figures

The latest figures for
public law (including care) applications and private law demand, for February
2020, have been published by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support
Service (‘Cafcass’), the organisation that looks after the interests of
children involved in family proceedings. In that month the service received a
total of 1,422 new public law applications (involving 2,305 children), just 4 applications
more than in the same month the previous year. Cafcass received 16,637 new
public law cases between April 2019 and February 2020 featuring 26,830 children;
this represents a decrease of 0.8% (141 public law cases) and a decrease of
2.8% (760 children) on the 16,778 new public law cases received and the 27,590
children on those cases between April and February 2019. As to private law
demand, Cafcass received a total of 3,930 new private law cases (involving 4,991
children) in February 2020, about 8 per cent (or 298 cases) higher than the
same month the previous year. Cafcass received 42,347 new private law cases
from April 2019 to February 2020, which is 2,575 cases (6.5%) more than the
same period in 2018. These cases involved 63,600 children, which is 2,889
(4.8%) more children than April 2019 to February 2020.