FAMILY proceedings at Worcester County Court will be open to the Press for the very first time today.

After a lengthy period of consultation, the Government has decided to make the nationwide changes to allow more transparency in what have been labelled the “secret” court.

Journalists will be allowed to attend and report on all divorce cases and those which concern children, including care proceedings, unless specifically excluded, following an announcement to open the process up to greater public scrutiny.

Members of the public and Press have previously been able to attend family proceeding matters at magistrates court but cases at county court have always been held in private.

Designated family judge Richard Rundell, based at Worcester Crown and County Court, has welcomed the move and said the public have a right to know about the processes and procedures involved.

He said the law change may go some way to dispelling the “myths” surrounding family courts and, in particular, the idea of local authorities taking children away from blameless parents.

Judge Rundell, who has been a family judge for eight years and has regularly sat at Worcester for the past four years, said: “We think we are doing a good job and we want the public to see we are doing a good job.

“We have said for years that we have nothing to hide and we want the public to know what we are doing and why we are doing it.

“Taking a child out of a family and placing that child with another family is as serious as it gets and it is never a decision which is made lightly. We want the public to have full confidence in the system and see how it operates.”

Members of the public will not be able to attend family court cases but members of the Press are now allowed on the public’s behalf.

Existing reporting restrictions will still apply which will protect children’s identities but it will be possible to report on the rulings of the court and the reasons why decisions have been made.

It will not be possible to report a child’s name, address or school, or report the name of their parents or any other information which may lead to their identity.

Details of the new proposal, which was put forward by Secretary of State for Justice Jack Straw in December, have been met with criticism from leading figures within newspaper and broadcast industries.

They fear certain legislation means the change will do little to alter the status quo and the law will continue to ban virtually all reporting.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said in a letter to the justice secretary: “We feel we are in a position where your welcome attempts at greater openness will be seriously compromised.”

A Worcestershire County Council spokesman said: “We welcome increased transparency, however we would want to be assured children’s confidentiality will be adhered to at all times.”