A family judge was wrong to make an order preventing the reporting of a case, an appeal judgment has ruled in a significant step for the opening of proceedings to the press.
In Louise Tickle v Father & Ors Mrs Justice Lieven ruled that His Honour Judge Haigh erred in law in adjourning a journalist’s application to be allowed to report on ‘highly contentious’ proceedings in Manchester family court concerning a child under the age of five.
Journalist and courts transparency campaigner Louise Tickle had appealed the judge’s decision. It was opposed by the father and guardian of the child in the case. The father argued that the judge’s cautious approach was appropriate in order not to inflame tensions between the parents.
However, in a decision clarifying the application of the 2022 procedure rule allowing the press and bloggers to attend private hearings, the appeal judge stressed the importance of the public being informed about the workings of the family justice system.
While the views of the parties on the presence of reporters are of 'great significance', they are not determinative, the judge ruled: ‘No party holds a veto on reporting’. She found that the Manchester judge had failed to balance in an appropriate manner the rights of privacy and freedom of expression.
Although the father might identify his case in a generic report, 'that is hardly a ground to refuse reporting', she said. Meanwhile, it is not for the court to consider the quality or fairness of any coverage. 'The court is not an arbiter of the editorial content of reporting.'
Immediately granting the appeal and allowing Tickle’s application, the judge said there was no possibility of the child or parents being identified. 'There is a strong public interest' in allowing Tickle to report the generic concerns about the family justice system which arise in the case.
Published on 09/11/2023