So now we know. Justice Secretary Jack Straw (left) announced yesterday that, subject to Parliamentary approval, family court hearings in county courts and the High Court will be opened to the media from the 27th April. Only holders of the UK Press Card will be able to attend, and court will be able to restrict attendance "if the welfare of the child requires it, or for the safety and protection of parties or witnesses".
On the face of it, this measure appears to be a significant victory for those, such as fathers' rights groups, who have been campaigning for years to open up the family courts, yet I doubt that many of the campaigners will be satisfied that the reform goes far enough. Indeed, the power of the court to restrict attendance could, in practice, mean that there is actually very little change after the 27th April - we shall have to see. On the other hand, senior family lawyers, including Mr Justice Hedley, have expressed their concerns at the unseemly haste with which the measure has been pushed through. Has the Justice Secretary skilfully found a solution that will satisfy none of the interested parties?
One thing is clear, as a blogger I will not be entitled to attend family courts. I, at least, am not dissatisfied with that.