Birmingham City Council v H
Reference:  EWHC 2885 (Fam)
Court: Family Division
Judge: Charles J
Date of judgment: 13 Dec 2005
Summary: Care proceedings - children's welfare - publication of judgments - disclosure of medical reports into the public domain
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Adam Wolanski QC (Interested Party)
Instructing Solicitors: William Bache & Co for 1st and 2nd respondents; Osborne & Co for S's Guardian; BBC Solicitors
The respondent child (S) was the third child of the first and second respondents. Their first child died aged 4 months. Their second child was adopted and in the adoption proceedings the court made a finding that the couple’s first child had been killed by the mother who was also found to be an untruthful witness. The parents opposed a final care order. The court ordered expert reconsideration of whether the mother had intentionally inflicted harm on her first child.
The court also considered the question of publicity. Counsel for the BBC applied for an anonymised copy of the judgment and for previous judgments in the case.
(In so far as it related to the BBC application) (i)whether the judgments of the court in the case, including previous judgments, should be made public; (ii) approach to be taken where an application is made for disclosure of medical reports into the public domain
(i) The case raised points of public interest and the judgment at the directions stage was to be made available to the public in anonymised form, as were the earlier relevant judgments of Bracewell J and Kirkwood J. Identities were not to be published but the Judge accepted that reporting linked to identified individuals has greater impact although it may fail to prompt balanced public debate.
(iii) If an application for disclosure of medical reports had been pursued the court would have invited representations from the medical bodies concerned.
In line with the new-found spirit of openness in the Family Division, this decision promotes the greater use of publishing judgments that have been anonymised.