Mr Justice Cobb, in a decision reported in The Telegraph this afternoon, today refused an application by the former Premiership footballer Ryan Giggs to ban media representatives from attending Court hearings relating to the financial proceedings alongside his divorce to Stacey Giggs. However, the Judge did impose restrictions on what could be reported including preventing the reporting of financial affairs. The reasons for this decision are not yet known and more will of course come out if and when the decision is reported.
One can appreciate why Mr Giggs, as a very high profile former professional footballer (and possible future manager), would want to keep the intimate details of his financial affairs away from the public glare. He is no stranger to seeking the Court’s protection of his privacy as is well known. As a high profile public figure his case will be closely followed by the media and, if it had not been for today’s decision, would have been poured over by the media and reported in intimate detail.
The Family Court is being drawn towards greater openness led by such standard-bearers as Sir James Munby and Mr Justice Holman. But there will inevitably be some resistance both generally and on a case-specific basis. It is rare for anybody to want their affairs aired in public. It draws back into focus the recent debate in this respect and we have previously blogged about developments in England and China (here and here). We continue to keep a watchful eye on developments and are always on alert to protect our clients against the gaze of public attention should this protection be required.
One could argue that Mr Giggs’ notoriety immediately places him on a different footing to other litigants. Perhaps he should be afforded this protection above those other litigants who are protected by the relative innocuousness of their affairs. By being so well known it could be said that the additional protection is justified. In essence Mr and Mrs Giggs, and particularly their children, may require this additional protection against public scrutiny because of the huge level of public interest. On this basis this special treatment may be justified.
But equally the Court must be consistent in its approach. The Court of Appeal is due to rule on the tension between privacy and openness in the Family Courts soon and we will await more insight and guidance as to the approach to be adopted. At the present time it can be a bit of a lottery for litigants as to whether their financial affairs will be aired in open court or in chambers (preferences vary greatly across the Family Division Bench), and what reporting restrictions are imposed. This case, particularly given its profile, will only add to the wealth of opinion informing this ongoing debate.
At The International Family Law Group LLP we are always acutely aware of the need to privacy and discretion in relation to our client’s affairs. If you are affected by the matters raised in this article, please do not hesitate to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or directly to the author on email@example.com.
Stuart Clark is an Associate Solicitor at iFLG, and has a wide breath of experience in all issues arising from the breakdown of a relationship but particularly specialises in financial and forum matters. His work involves complicated trust and partnership issues when often quick advice needs to be obtained from a specialist lawyer in another jurisdiction to run concurrently to his cases in hand.
The International Family Law Group LLP
© Feb 2017