Simon Murray and Tom Collins act for the Queen’s Proctor in an application to rescind decrees of divorce granted by the English and Welsh county courts in a large number of cases involving Italian nationals who have been involved in a massive conspiracy (involving around 180 other cases) to pervert the course of justice by claiming jurisdiction on false information.
In an important preliminary judgment Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division urged that parliament review the 1926 Proceedings (Regulation of Reports) Act. Further he ruled that the reporting restrictions imposed by the Act are subject to a discretion in the court to permit the media's publication of a report of proceedings as directed by the Judge.
The aim of the 1926 Act was to strike a balance between the principle of open justice and the need to curb reports from the divorce court for the protection of public morality. No doubt s.1(1)(b) was couched in terms designed to prohibit the publication of material which was ‘scandalous, indecent, disgusting, salacious or titillating’. It was almost impossible to believe that the application of s.1(1)(b) to financial remedy proceedings was an outcome that Parliament had intended. It was difficult to understand how the protection of public morality and public decency, or indeed any other public interest, was facilitated by subjecting the reporting of proceedings in open court of the kind in the instant case to the restraint imposed by s.1(1)(b). Pending any review of the Act by Parliament, the only legitimate means of avoiding the impact of s.1(1)(b) were those allowed by the express provisions of s.1(4)(b), which recognised a discretion to make a direction authorising the media's publication of a report of the whole of the proceedings.