Reference:  EWCA Civ 45;  Fam 261;  2 WLR 1511;  1 All ER 865;  1 FLR 565
Court: Court of Appeal
Judge: Butler-Sloss P, Thorpe & Keene LJJ
Date of judgment: 30 Jan 2001
Summary: Court proceedings - confidentiality - chambers applications - Family Division - Applicant disclosing to press other party's evidence given at hearing in chambers - Whether family proceedings to be held in chambers - Whether proceedings in chambers confidential - Whether disclosure without Court's permission a contempt
Instructing Solicitors: Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the Claimant
The applicant had a long relationship with the respondent. After the relationship ended the applicant sought an occupation order in respect of the respondent’s flat in London. After she lost the application she complained to the Daily Mail about the evidence which the respondent had given.
The issue was whether the applicant was in contempt of court for revealing to the newspaper details of the evidence the respondent had given at a hearing in chambers.
(1) The 1991 Family Proceedings Rules were not ultra vires in providing for family cases to be heard in chambers, rather than in open court; (2) But exclusion of the public did not of itself mean that publication of the evidence was prohibited; (3) The applicant was not on the facts in contempt.
The decision shatters the myth that the exclusion of the public from family cases automatically means that the evidence given in such cases cannot be reported. Aside from the statutory prohibition on reporting chambers cases involving minors, the only relevant constraint is the implied undertaking not to use documents disclosed under compulsion.