Former MP calls for Family Court transparency

No Fault Divorce Bill second reading is postponed

A former MP has called on the family justice system to disclose the names of those embroiled in “high-profile” divorce battles.

John Hemming, now a campaigner for improvements in the Family Court, said journalists should be told who is featuring in private divorce cases so they can “muster arguments” for publishing names in reports of cases.

Most lower level courts reveal a list of litigants’ surnames, but in the Family Division of the High Court, where the highest value claims take place, only a number is given to litigants.

Mr Hemming said it is wrong that the “richest get protection not afforded to others”.

His call follows reports that the court recently dished out the largest ever payout to a woman after a divorce battle with her billionaire husband.

Neither of the pair were identified.

Mr Hemming said editors would almost certainly be able to mount arguments in favour of publishing names in reports of such cases.

“Rules about family court reporting have changed. Reporters can attend hearings – although judges still decide what can be reported. There is a drive towards more transparency,” he said.

“And there is a public interest in big-money divorce cases being reported. The taxpayer pays the wages of judges and court staff. People have a human right to free speech and that includes the right to receive and impart information.

“Journalists should at least be able to make arguments in favour of reporting. But realistically how can they do that if they don’t know who’s involved?

“The lists in lower level courts have now started to include names in divorce cases. Why should the High Court lists be different? Why should the richest get a protection not afforded to others? It’s time for names to be included on High Court lists in these kinds of cases.”

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