Who? Melanie Bridgen, partner and solicitor specialising in family law at Nelsons, Derby.
Why is she in the news? Last month, the Court of Appeal gave permission for the press to publish family court findings of domestic abuse against former Conservative MP Andrew Griffiths. Bridgen represented ex-wife Kate Griffiths MP, who supported applications by journalists Louise Tickle and Brian Farmer for publication of the family court judgment.
Thoughts on the case: ‘Currently, family proceedings are held in private as they’re deeply personal, ranging from financial disputes to domestic abuse, child abuse and parental alienation. Journalists may attend a hearing but may not always report what they observe, leading to a number of “secret court” headlines criticising judicial decision-making.
‘This case highlights the fine balance between competing rights of privacy and public interest. As the court sits in private, family justice is not routinely seen to be done but we achieved just that in the Griffiths case.
‘Sir Andrew McFarlane’s review of transparency concluded that the time has come for accredited media representatives to be able to attend hearings and report publicly on what they see and hear and this is exactly what we achieved.’
Dealing with the media: ‘I was interviewed for broadcast, print and online media, all keen to hear Kate’s story and what I had done to assist her. The interest ranged from transparency in the family court to rights of women and speaking out opposing violence against women and girls. The media did not politicise the issue despite the profile of the parties. They were helpful and respectful throughout and dealt with the issues with sensitivity and understanding.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I believe that the robust and proper application of the law is central to improving the lives and chances of people within our community. Being able to represent those who need help, at the most challenging times in their lives, is a privilege that inspires me. In turn, I hope to be able to inspire others, especially young women considering a career in law.’
Career high: ‘Protecting the rights of men, women and children by acting for clients involved in reported cases, like Griffiths, which influence and shape family law.’
Career low: ‘Losing a case at appeal due to an over-reliance on conventional expert evidence and being unable to persuade the court to accept my client’s arguments.’