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The "Secret" Family Court: Fact or Fiction?

The "Secret" Family Court: Fact or Fiction?


"an important new book" Joshua Rozenberg, The Critic

"This book is not just an absorbing read for anyone who cares about the family justice system; it plays an important role in the creative attempts now being made to ensure that more robust and accountable decisions are made for the people who pass through the doors of the family court. "

From the Preface by Louise Tickle, journalist and regular contributor to The Guardian

With a Foreword by Sir James Munby, former President of the Family Division

For approaching two decades, family courts have been accused of making life changing decisions about children and who they live with made in secret, away from the scrutiny of the public gaze. Recognising the force of these accusations, senior family courts judges have, over that time, implemented a raft of rule changes, pilot projects and judicial guidance aimed at making the family justice more accountable and transparent.

But has any progress been made? Are there still suspicions that family judges make irrevocable, unaccountable decisions in private hearings? And if so, are those suspicions justified and what can be done to dispel them?

In this important and timely new book, Clifford Bellamy, a recently retired family judge who has been at the sharp end of family justice during all these changes, attempts to answer those questions and more. He has spoken to leading journalists, judges and academic researchers to find out what the obstacles to open reporting are – be they legal, economic or cultural - and interweaves their insights with informed analysis on how the laws regulating family court reporting operate. Along the way he provides a comprehensive review of the raft of initiatives he has seen come and go, summarises the position now and uses this experience to suggest how this fundamental aspect of our justice system could adapt in the face of this criticism.

Every professional working in the family justice system – lawyers, social workers, court staff and judges - as well as those who job it is to report on legal affairs, should read this informative, nuanced exposition of what open justice means and why it matters so much to those whose lives are upended by the family justice system.

About the Author

HH Clifford Bellamy is a recently retired Family Circuit Judge and Deputy High Court Judge who dealt almost exclusively with children’s cases for over 15 years. He is well-known among family lawyers for writing clear, accessible judgments explaining the outcome of difficult family cases to those involved and has been at the forefront of attempts to make the courts as open as possible.

Price & Formats

Published March 2020
274 pages
ISBN 978-1-9164315-8-4

Print: £20.00 + £4 p&p
Digital: £20.00
Print/digital bundle: £30 (free p&p)

Read the first two chapters free

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