Full case report

P (A Child)

Reference [2013] EWHC 4048 (Fam)
Court High Court, Family Division

Judge Munby P

Date of Judgment 17 Dec 2013


Summary

Reporting restrictions – family courts – identification – Article 8 – Article 10


Facts

P’s mother (M) was on a short visit to this country from Italy in June 2012 when she had what she described as a panic attack and was detained pursuant to section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983. She was pregnant, and the NHS Trust applied to Mostyn J sitting in the Court of Protection for the performance of a caesarean section using restraint if necessary. He granted the application and gave reasons in an ex tempore judgment on 23 August 2012, Re AA [2012] EWHC 4378 (COP).

P was born by caesarean section on 24 August 2012, the Applicant County Council (“A”) began care proceedings the next day. P was placed in foster care and was eventually the subject of a care order and a placement order, the Council was then given leave to place P for adoption. Until 1 December 2013, none of this information was in the public domain.

On 1 December 2013 accounts of the case were printed in the newspapers and extensive media coverage ensued. The Judge ordered that any further applications were to be heard by him in the High Court and issued a statement to that effect. There was inaccurate coverage of the order.

On 3 December, A made an application without notice seeking a reporting restriction order. This was refused and the Judge authorised the publication of a statement that it had been, and that he would hear an application on notice. On 4 December the Council renewed its application and the Judge sent a message to A noting defects in its Checklist for the application.

That application came before Charles J on 4 December 2012 who granted a more limited injunction than that sought by A (Re P [2013] EWHC 4383 (Fam)) to run until 13 December 2013. Later on the same day Mostyn J ordered publication of the judgment of 23 August 2012.

There was no application on behalf of M or the Italian Authorities. The instant application, before the court on 13 December, was a renewal of the one made by A on 4 December 2013 for a reporting restriction order. Before the hearing Associated Newspapers Limited, who had been represented at the hearing of 4 December 2012, agreed an appropriate form of order with A.

Before turning to the substance of the application, the Judge surveyed the extensive media coverage of the case, emphasising the three key principles he set out in Re J (A Child) [2013] EWHC 2694 (Fam) at [37]-[39].


Issue

Should the order be made in the form agreed between A and ANL?


Held

Making the order in the form agreed:

The interests which were engaged and had to be considered in the balancing exercise conducted by the court were: those of the public in knowing and discussing what had been done in the case; those of the mother in being allowed to tell her story to the world; and the rights of P to privacy and anonymity.

P’s welfare demanded that neither she nor her carers be identified. There was to be no injunction restraining identification of the mother by her maiden name. The form of the order granted contained a proviso designed to make explicitly clear that the injunction restraining identification of P did not prevent the mother identifying herself. It also contained wording providing for it to cease to have effect if the child was returned to its parents’ care.

Two further points required addressing: firstly, that the family justice system could not blame the media for inaccuracy in reporting of family cases if the relevant information was not available, and, second, that the case demonstrated that radical changes are needed in the way the Family Courts and Court of Protection approach transparency.


Comment

This judgment is one of a series in which Munby P has, since assuming his new role as President of the Family Division, pressed for changes in the approach to the publication and reporting of information about events in the family courts. The judge reiterated the part to be played in the balancing exercise which is to be conducted by the court in such cases by the interests of public, and by those of any parents. He also helpfully set out for the attention of a wider audience the explanation given by Mike Dodd, legal editor of the Press Association, as to the operation of the Press Association’s CopyDirect Injunctions Alerts Service.


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Instructing Solicitors

Essex County Council for A