Medway Council v G and Others
Reference:  EWHC 1691 (Fam)
Court: High Court, Family Division
Judge: The President
Date of judgment: 18 Jul 2008
Summary: Care proceedings – s.12, Administration of Justice Act 1960 – Publication of judgments - Identification of local authority - Articles 8 and 10, European Convention on Human Rights
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Adam Wolanski QC (Applicant)
Instructing Solicitors: Times Legal Department
The local authority made a child, S, the subject of a care order following a breakdown in the relationship between his parents. S was placed with foster carers, but was abducted and taken to France by his mother with the assistance of her new husband, M. Upon his return to England M was arrested, convicted and imprisoned for assisting in the abduction of S. S and his mother did not return to England, and remain overseas. The local authority obtained an order preventing publication of information relating to S and preventing the press from seeking information about S from any of those involved in the case. Times Newspapers applied for the insertion of a proviso allowing them to interview M and for the judgments in the care proceedings to be made publicly available.
(1) Should the judgments in the care proceedings be made publicly available;
(2) Was the insertion of a proviso into the order necessary and appropriate to allow The Times to conduct the interview with M;
(3) Should the press be prevented from identifying the local authority.
(1) There were several judicial dicta supporting the publication of anonymised judgments from care proceedings; however, a distinction may need to be drawn between the position before and after the welfare interests of the child had been finally adjudicated.
(2) In this case any need to disclose the earlier judgments in the case was obviated by an agreement reached between the parties during the hearing that Medway should provide The Times with a summary of facts relating to the care proceedings for publication. This solution struck the correct balance between the Article 10 rights of the press and the Article 8 rights of S.
(3) It was appropriate to insert the proviso sought by The Times to enable it to interview M about the matters arising in the criminal proceedings.
(4) The evidence failed to establish the likelihood of any widespread identification of S by reason of identification of the local authority, which could therefore be identified.
The judge considered that the condemnation of the conduct of the council to date in press reports gave rise to a strong public interest in the facts of the case being more widely known, even though the proceedings were not concluded. The case illustrates how applications by the media for access to information about care proceedings are now likely to receive a more sympathetic hearing than was previously the case.