CAFCASS; Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service

{July 1, 2009}   Earl Spencer fails to win blanket press ban in divorce proceedings

Earl Spencer and his former wife, Caroline, were united yesterday in an attempt to oust the media from their battle for a divorce settlement at the High Court.

In the first high-profile test of reforms that allowed reporters into family courts, including divorce hearings, Lord Spencer and his former wife wanted a blanket ban on any publicity.

But the High Court judge hearing the case, Mr Justice Munby, rejected their request and instead asked the parties to put forward a request for restrictions on the coverage of the hearing, expected to last all week.

Nicholas Mostyn, QC, representing Lord Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, said that the reason why the media were allowed in to the once-private Family Division hearings was because of lobbying to open up secret proceedings involving battles over children.

He said it was not the object of the reforms to allow the press to report anything of news interest, particularly battles over how assets are split after a divorce. These parties have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Thousands of family court hearings that previously would have taken place in private were opened to the media in April after pressure from fathers groups, campaigners and the media, including The Times.

Mr Mostyn said that the parties expectation of privacy should override the limited freedom of expression allowed under the European Convention on Human Rights.

There is nothing interesting about this case apart from the fact that it is Earl and Countess Spencer. If this were two anonymous people there would be no press in here at all. It would be fundamentally boring. We are going to be looking at housing and budget. In these circumstances there is no overreaching freedom of expression consideration and privacy must prevail.


“Straw: family court hearings open to the media from 27 April.
27 April 2009 Over 200,000 more family court hearings each year will be opened to the media …from 27 April, in a move designed to strike a balance between the rights of those who need protecting, like vulnerable children, and the need for transparency.”

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