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Family law: Proposal to open up family court hearings to the public

In a remarkable move to address criticism surrounding judgements made in the Court of Protection, President of the High Court's family division, Sir James Munby, has proposed that the public be granted access to family court hearings in the future, reports The Telegraph.

Opening up the doors to family court hearings would be a monumental change to the system that has long been in place. However, Sir James is set on actualizing his 'transparency agenda' and thus has proposed that members of the public be welcome to hear family court cases.

The proposal follows a period of widespread criticism following a number of (what the public have deemed to be) questionable judgements made inside the Court of Protection.

One such noteworthy case was that of Alessandra Pacchieri, a pregnant woman suffering from mental health issues and who was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. The Court of Protection ordered that her unborn child be immediately removed from her womb and placed in social care, a decision that caused much controversy and extensive discussion among journalists and members of the public alike.

Commenting on the result of Miss Pacchieri's case and the controversy that surrounded it, Sir James pronounced that it was 'a "final, stark and irrefutable demonstration of the pressing need for radical changes" in the family courts and the Court of Protection', reports The Telegraph.

In addition to hoping to put an end to the controversy surrounding family court judgements, Sir James is also seeking to make the cases easier for journalists to report on by giving the Press access to case summaries and adding key words to case numbers in order to help them to identify the most significant hearings.

While the proposed changes would be greatly revise the current system of family court hearings, Sir James suggests a pilot scheme to ensure that ending secrecy in family courts is the right long-term decision.