Bristol City Council v News Group Newspapers Ltd
Reference:  EWHC 3748 (Fam)
Court: High Court (Family Division)
Judge: Baker J
Date of judgment: 21 Dec 2012
Summary: Care Proceedings – Publication of Facts and Reasons from Family Proceedings Court – Injunction – Article 10 – Article 8
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Adam Wolanski KC (Defendant)
Instructing Solicitors: Simons Muirhead and Burton (For News Group Newspapers) In House Solicitor for Bristol Council
During the course of a hearing in care proceedings before the Family Proceedings Court Bristol City Council obtained an injunction preventing any reporting of the case, including of the name of the Council. Bristol obtained the injunction without notifying any media organisation of its application. News Group Newspapers applied to set aside the injunction.
(1) Should the injunction be set aside?
(2) Should s.12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 be relaxed to permit reporting of the proceedings and, if so, to what extent?
Setting aside the injunction and relaxing section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 to allow publication of the Magistrates’ Facts and Reasons
(1) The Magistrates’ findings should be publishable as long as the child was not identified. The Magistrates had raised matters of serious concern about the manner in which Bristol had dealt with the foster arrangements for the child. There was a clear public interest in facilitating an open discussion of the issues relating to child protection and fostering that arose in this case. Whilst the article 8 rights of the child were engaged, publication would not constitute a disproportionate interference with those rights.
(2) There was no proper reason why Bristol had failed to provide notice to the media of its application for an injunction, particularly given a journalist from the Sun had been present in court during the care proceedings.
(3) The allegation that the foster father had committed suicide after police had found child pornography on his home computer should be publishable; so should the identity of the social workers involved in the case. There was no pressing social need justifying any restraint on reporting these matters.
Baker J took the opportunity to remind local authorities that the media must, save in exceptional cases, be notified before injunctions restraining reporting are sought. The practice of making such applications without notice was one which the judge said “must now cease”.