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Open Justice and Privacy in Family Proceedings

David Burrows
Availability: Published

Open justice is the default position in all court proceedings; and family proceedings is no exception. However, in some proceedings, especially those relating to children, there may be circumstances where privacy is justified.

Balancing the rights between the need for openness and transparency in proceedings yet legitimately protecting the interests of families and especially children is a challenging area for legal practitioners.

Open Justice and Privacy in Family Proceedings provides a practical guide to the principles and practice of open justice and privacy in family proceedings. It provides an explanation of the law and procedures governing family courts and the difficulties involved in balancing the rights of privacy and publicity.

The book examines:

  • When open justice principles apply;
  • the substantive law governing open court principles;
  • when hearings may be held in private, secret or in chambers;
  • the release of court materials before and after hearings;
  • anonymity, judgements and witnesses;
  • privacy and court procedure; and
  • publicity and reporting restrictions.


All practitioners who engage in family law litigation ought to read this book... Burrows litters his book with judicial comments which help the reader understand difficult legal concepts, as well as adding colour and context... Now is the time to learn and adopt non-court processes. Otherwise your clients are likely to face the public’s gaze.

Jo O’Sullivan (O’Sullivan Family Law) is a member of the Law Society Family Law Committee


Part 1: General Principles; 1. Introduction; 2. Open court principles: the substantive law; 3. Private, secret or in chambers; 4. Context for open justice litigation; 5. The paternal role of the court; 6. Rights issues; Part 2: Aspects of Privacy; 7. Court material: before the hearing; 8. Court material: release after the hearing; 9. Publicity for court materials; 10. Anonymity and judgments; 11. Anonymity of witnesses; Part 3: Privacy and Court Procedure; 12. Contempt of court and family proceedings; 13. Reporting restrictions; 14. Closed material procedures; 15. Procedural issues. 

About the Author

David Burrows is a solicitor advocate, writer and trainer. He specialises in family and child law. He is a founder contributor to Family Court Practice (‘Red Book’). He writes widely for such journals as Family Law, New Law Journal and for the ICLR blog. He is editor and sole author of the monthly case law summary, Bloomsbury Family Law Briefing.

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Family and social welfare


October 2020


The Law Society




256 Pages