Friday, 27 April 2018

The case of Alfie Evans and the confidentiality of family court proceedings

If ever there were proof of the foolishness of allowing the tabloid media access to family court proceedings, the tragic case of Alfie Evans is it. Gaby Hinsliff’s powerful piece in the Guardian reflects on the case and critically examines a wide range of issues raised by it.

But my interest is focused solely on the issue of the confidentiality of family court proceedings. Ever since the dying years of the last Labour Government in 2010, I have opposed the media being present in the family courts. 

Of course, those of us opposed to the changes lost the argument. The journalists were allowed in. Inevitably the end result has been that debates about individual children are now being conducted on the pages of newspapers, some of which are driven more by political ideology than by concern for the best interests of the child.

Decisions about children’s lives should not be made by journalists and their editors. Complex, painful and sometimes tragic cases need to be dealt with sensitively, calmly and rationally. They should not be the subject of screaming headlines and whipped up moral panics