Research highlights major difficulties in effectively anonymising judgments / The Cohabitation Rights Bill

Research Highlights Major Difficulties In Fffectively Anonymising Judgments

Harry Giles For Avadis & Co. Solicitors


Dr Julia Brophy has published research on children in the family courts and has found that the process involved in the anonymisation of cases not fit for purpose. The findings come as part of broader research into the requirement of family judges to publish anonymised judgements on the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BALII) website.

As part this research, young people, selected for the purposes of the investigation, were asked to look at examples of anonymised cases that had been through the current process thought to protect the sensitive information of the children and families concerned. It was found that the young people looking at the anonymised case were able to identify certain types of confidential information.

For example; the location of children and families, children’s ages and dates of birth, details of abuse, and health problems of parents, which, when pieced together would have made the children at the heart of the cases vulnerable to identification. The kind of identification that remained possible despite the anonymisation is known as ‘jigsaw identification’.

The research, undertaken by the Association of Lawyers for children and the National Youth Advocacy Service, contained ‘difficult, deeply embarrassing, shaming and damaging information about children’s lives; that such information was effectively already in the public arena was distressing – many felt let down.’

Writing in November’s Family Law, Dr Julia Brophy said:

‘It is fair to say that the report makes some worrying reading both in terms of practices in judicial anonymisation of judgments and with regard to the capacity for jigsaw identification of children and families – but also with regard to the willingness of some parents/other family members to place information from cases on social networking sites such as Facebook.’

The challenge appears to be, concludes the report, to find a way forward that simultaneously informs the public about the work of family courts, provides reasoned scrutiny of judges activity, and safeguards children.

This report is of particular interest to Avadis & Co given our involvement in numerous cases where sensitive information about children and families are disclosed to third parties in a redacted form.

Read the full report:


“Marry me” or “Move in with me” – What does the future hold?

 Sukhdeep Dhillon For Avadis & Co. Solicitors


At present, the cohabiting couple family continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK, reaching 3.2 million cohabiting couple families. In August 2015, the Marriage Foundation reported that marriage is becoming less prevalent among middle-income families; as a result marriage now faces extinction among low earning and middle class families. For this reason, many long-term cohabiting couples assume they will acquire the same legal rights as married couples; however this is a dangerous assumption to make. According to a recent poll, 51 percent of women and 42 percent of men believe they share the same rights as married couples when cohabiting.

However, under current cohabitation law it’s simply possible to live with someone, have children together and walk away without taking responsibility for a former partner when the relationship breaks down. Consequently, with the number of cohabiting couples ever increasing, new legislation stating legal rights for such couples has been drafted in the form of the Cohabitation Rights Bill.

The 4th June 2015 marked the first stage of the Cohabitation Rights Bill with the first reading in the House of Lords. The main aim of the Bill is to establish a framework of rights and responsibilities and to provide basic protection for cohabitants. The proposed legislation will allow cohabiting couples with or without children who have cohabited for two years or more, the right to apply for a Financial Settlement Order. An applicant will need to show that he/she has suffered either an economic disadvantage or that their partner has retained a benefit as a result of a qualifying contribution they have made. It is important to note qualifying contribution to the family does not have to be financial and can include other contributions which benefit the family in other ways such as contributing to the general welfare of family members.

Many feel this Bill could not come soon enough, however others feel this Bill would devalue the sanctity of marriage. The Government has found itself heavily conflicted with many stating that with the passing of the Bill, what difference would remain between those couples who are cohabiting and those that are married? Similarly many believe that preserving the tradition of marriage in today’s modern age would be old fashioned and highly romanticised.

At Avadis & Co. we provide advice and assistance to cohabiting couples in relevance to setting out a cohabitee’s interest to protect their rights in the event of separation or death. With the passing of this Bill, we could help put both individuals in the position they would have been had cohabitation not occurred. Likewise, where an individual had retained a benefit due to the other’s qualifying contribution, we could help reverse this.