Reference:  EWHC 1529 (Fam)
Court: Family Division
Judge: Munby J
Date of judgment: 23 Jun 2009
Summary: Family proceedings - Media access - Ancillary relief - Application to exclude media from hearing - Family Proceeding Rules, 10.28
Instructing Solicitors: Manches for the Petitioner; Fladgate for the Respondent
At the opening of the final hearing of ancillary proceedings between Countess Spencer and Earl Spencer, the Petitioner and Respondent made a joint application for an order under Rule 10.28(4) of the Family Proceeding Rules (as amended by the Family Proceedings (Amendment) (No 2) Rules 2009, SI 2009/857) that the media be excluded from the hearing.
Whether the media should be excluded from the hearing.
Refusing the application:
Resolution of the issue as to whether or not, consistently with the Rules and the President’s Practice Direction of 20 April 2009, the media should be excluded, involves the familiar ‘parallel analysis’ leading to the ‘ultimate balancing test’: see In re S . The court has to weigh, evaluate and balance the conflicting interests protected by Articles 6, 8 and 10 of the Convention. This was “a fairly routine big money case.” It was not consistent with the legislative intent which lay behind the change in the Rules that the media were to be excluded from such cases. The only circumstance put forward in the present case for excluding the media from the hearing was the high public profile of the parties and the fact that they would be exposed to the publication of matters which they would prefer not to be exposed in public. That was not sufficient to justify the order sought.
This was the first decision of Munby J on the new Rules regarding media access to family proceedings (and only the second decision on the new Rules at all, after that of Charles J in X v Y (Unreported, 27 April 2009)), and the Judge provides a useful review of the new guidance and Practice Direction, as well as the relevant provisions of the Judicial Proceedings (Regulation of Reports) Act 1926 and the Administration of Justice Act 1960.
It is clear that there will need to be something unusual about a case to justify blanket exclusion of the media from ancillary relief hearings. It may be that they will be excluded for the evidence of one or more witnesses, if it can be shown that they would not give full and frank evidence in the presence of the media. On the instant application, he rejected the argument that the fact that the media were only interested in the case because of the identity of the parties was sufficient to justify a departure from the normal rule that the media