12.28In Ireland, unreported or reported judgments are always released to practitioners and law reporters in the legal libraries with the names of the parties and their children deleted, except for the first initial (for example, “Murphy” becomes “M”). All identifying details, such as addresses, schooling, place of employment, and even the names of witnesses, are also deleted. This does not cause confusion as long as the correct date of the judgment is available. It would be useful to issue a Practice Direction regulating the release of family judgments so that, in addition to deleting the names of the parties, other identifying details would also be deleted from the judgments.
12.29If all the identifying details were deleted then the judgments in disputes concerning children could be made more widely available to legal practitioners, encouraging the growth of a family law jurisprudence and making more information available to solicitors and counsel advising clients on the way forward.
12.30We recommend that a Practice Direction regulating the release of unreported judgments in disputes concerning children be issued to encourage their increased availability to legal practitioners. We also recommend that, for the protection of children and their parents, all identifying details, including the names of parties and their children, addresses, schooling, place of employment, and even the names of witnesses, should be deleted (except for the first initial) from all such judgments, whether unreported or reported.
Code of Practice for conduct of family cases
12.31Currently there is no Code of Conduct and Practice for family lawyers in Hong Kong.1185 The Family Law and Legal Aid Committee of the Law Society of Ireland recently issued a Code of Practice. Clause 4.3 reminds solicitors of their obligation to discuss reconciliation and mediation and the possibility of a separation by negotiation or consent settlement. Solicitors are encouraged to resolve disputes about children through mediation.
12.32The English Solicitors’ Family Law Association has a Code of Practice to assist lawyers as to their responsibility in interviewing and representing children. Fricker refers to an extract of the second general Code of Practice of that Association which states:
“It should become part of the family law culture for most parties to be induced into mediation where there are unresolved issues. The culture should be that litigation is perceived to be the last resort ... mediation should generally, within the legal profession and by the public, be perceived to be the most appropriate way to resolve most issues on which agreement has not been reached”.1186
12.33A Family Lawyers’ Code of Practice could include such principles as assisting a constructive settlement and placing the best interests of children as a first
1185 We understand that the Law Society Family Law Committee and the Family Law Association are examining the need for such a code for Hong Kong.
1186 Family Law, vol. 215 (April 1994).