A 9-month pilot allowing legal bloggers to report on private family proceedings in England and Wales began on 1 October 2018.
Lawyers who hold a valid practising certificate or work for a higher education institution or educational charity are able to attend family proceedings in the Family Court and Family Division of the High Court, with a view to reporting the proceedings.
The lawyers cannot have a personal interest in the proceedings or attend in the capacity of agent or instructed lawyer of any client.
The pilot - which runs from 1 October 2018 until 30 June 2019 - has been enabled by a Practice Direction, 36J, which modifies the Familiy Protection Rules 2010.
It says the purpose is to assess the use of new practices and procedures to allow for attendance at hearings in private by certain lawyers with a view to their being able to report on proceedings (as “legal bloggers”) in addition to duly accredited representatives of news gathering and reporting organisations.
English journalists have been able to attend private family cases since 2009. However, supporters of the pilot say they may be reluctant to do so because they have little information about what the case is about beforehand and do not know whether they will have enough for an article. Legal bloggers are also not constrained by deadlines or tight word counts, which can potentially lead to inaccuracies.
The pilot is strongly supported by the Transparency Project, a charity with the objective of making family law and family courts clearer.
Transparency Project chair Lucy Reed was an enthusiastic blogger on the first day of the pilot. She encountered a few problems gaining access, but provided a lengthy and entertaining blog on the proceedings.