Full case report

Re Child X (Residence and Contact – Rights of media attendance – FPR Rule 10.28(4))

Reference [2009] EWHC 1728 (Fam)
Court Family Division

Judge President of the Family Division

Date of Judgment 14 Jul 2009


Summary

Family proceedings – Reporting Restrictions – Family Procedure Rules 1991 – The Family Proceedings (Amendment No 2) Rules 2009 – Children – Rights of Media Attendance – Rule 10.28(4)


Facts

The matter concerned ongoing proceedings about residence and contact in relation to X, the young daughter of the applicant father (a celebrity). The proceedings had hitherto been heard in private and the parties wished that position to continue. There were further concerns about the impact on the child expressed at a directions hearing in December 2008. However, pursuant to recent amendments to the Family Proceedings Rules 1991 by The Family Proceedings (Amendment No 2) Rules 2009, the media proposed to attend and report on future hearings in the case.


Issue

Whether the media should be excluded from the proceedings under Rule 10.28(4).


Held

Granting the application:

(a) Cases involving children of celebrities are no different to those involving any other children but press interest in a case will be more intense where celebrity parents are involved and the need for the child’s protection will similarly be more intense.

(b) Under Rule 10.28 the court should consider whether any information received in confidence is involved. Matters had to date proceeded on the basis of the case’s privacy and the confidentiality of X’s exchanges with her doctors and to withdraw this would constitute a betrayal of trust and present a grave danger to the case’s successful outcome.

(c) In deciding whether the grounds for exclusion override the media’s presumptive right to be present, the court must have regard to whether the press’ interests lie in reporting on matters which may well be the object of interest and curiosity but which are confidential or private and do not involve matters of public i


Comment

The decision to exclude the media was based on a number of unusual features in the case which are unlikely to apply in most cases involving children. Most important was the evidence relating to the vulnerability of the child and specifically the likely adverse impact of media presence on this child’s welfare. The interest of foreign media in the case to date was another notable factor, giving rise to a real concern as to how reporting of the details of the case, prohibited under English law, could be prevented. Also significant was the question of duties of confidence on the part of medical and other experts who have not warned the witnesses that their evidence is likely to be heard in the presence of media representatives, a matter which will need to be considered carefully by experts acting in child cases in future. The court gave important guidance about the procedure to be adopted in cases where parties know that they are to apply for exclusion of the media in future.


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Instructing Solicitors

Amicus Curiae instructed by CAFCASS Legal; Schillings for the Applicant; Levison Meltzer Pigott for the Respondent; Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the Media