It is widely reported that Ant McPartlin is in financial proceedings with his ex-wife, Lisa Armstrong. In November last year he was faced with a quandary for anyone who is of public interest and who wishes to keep their private lives out of the newspapers: should I or should I not apply for a Reporting Restrictions Order (RRO)?

Parties can now increasingly expect that a representative of the media might be present in court when a hearing to do with their finances is listed. Practice Direction 27 B states that media representatives have a right to attend family proceedings throughout save to the extent that the court exercises its discretion to exclude them. The fact that a party is well known is unlikely to lead to the exclusion of media representatives from the court, quite the opposite. So if they are going to be there what is the best approach?

Practice Direction 12 deals with applications for RROs, but requires the applicant to take all practical steps to notify the national media, via the press associations CopyDirect Service, and makes it clear that service of applications via the CopyDirect service should be the norm and that short shrift is likely to be given to an applicant who has failed to put the media on proper notice of their application.

Thus Ant McPartlin’s advisors (as is common: comprising not only a family law barrister but a media barrister as well) found themselves in front of Mr Justice Mosytn’s court at a hearing to persuade the court that Mr McPartlin’s privacy outweighed the media’s right to report. They were successful, but at a price: the following day not only was the fact of the application and its outcome widely reported, but (which turned out of course to form “the news”) the Judge’s rebuke to Mr McPartlin for not being there. It seems, from his subsequent comments, that he didn’t know there was an expectation upon him to be there, and this may reflect the different practice in the family courts to the other divisions. It would undoubtedly have been his preference not to be there, if he had been there, and having specifically notified the press of his application in accordance with the Practice Direction, the chances are a photographer would have snapped him on his way in or out of the court to give the much beloved visual accompaniment to the article that followed. But his non-attendance itself provided a story, albeit without a photo, all of which perhaps militates against the expensive business of making an application by when doing so, you are guaranteed exposure of court proceedings which you were trying to keep private. A rock and a hard place.

There is a time and place for these orders.  A detailed and careful consideration of the pros and cons is required in advance.

The author of this article was Tom Amlot.