On 31 July the High Court handed down judgment in the case of Newman v Southampton City Council and others [2020] EWHC 2103 (Fam), which concerned the application of freelance journalist Melanie Newman to view the court files and other materials in a set of care proceedings which concluded in October 2018.

The case is significant because, although journalists have been permitted to attend private family hearings since 2009, this is the first reported occasion where a court has been asked to determine whether, and to what extent, a member of the press should be permitted to access the underlying documentary material in a case. Since the application was wide-ranging, seeking disclosure of all relevant material including witness statements, expert reports, local authority notes, and medical and police disclosure, the court had the opportunity to consider the competing interests at stake in relation to the full spectrum of typical documents in care cases. The decision also comes during the course of the ‘Transparency Review’ currently being undertaken by the President of the Family Division, which considers whether the line between confidentiality and transparency in family proceedings is correctly drawn. The evidence-gathering stage of that review concluded in May 2020, and the report is awaited.

Read the full article here: High Court rules on journalist’s application for access to papers in care proceedings

Kate Temple-Mabe acted pro bono for the Applicant journalist, instructed in her own right through the Advocate Pro Bono Unit in the early stages of proceedings, and later on instructed by Howard Kennedy LLP, as junior to a leading privacy law QC.

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