Morgan v A Local Authority (Re X, Y and Z)
Reference:  EWHC 1157 (Fam)
Court: High Court (Family Division)
Judge: President of the Family Division
Date of judgment: 11 May 2011
Summary: Family Proceedings – Publicity – Identification of experts – Disclosure of expert reports to media
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Adam Wolanski QC (Interested Party)
Instructing Solicitors: The applicant in person; in house solicitor for the local authority; Hempsons for the Royal College of Paediatrics; Berrymans for Dr M and the MPS
A local authority brought care proceedings in respect of three children, which it sought to withdraw before the trial was heard. Upon the application to withdraw the judge made numerous criticisms of the report prepared for the proceedings by a consultant paediatrician, Dr M, who had not been cross examined about the contents of his report. An investigative journalist applied to the court for permission to identify Dr M
Whether Dr M should be identified
Dr M should be identified. Although the judge should not have made such swingeing criticisms of Dr M, there was no compelling social need for an injunction preventing his identification: Re Ward considered. Dr M should be permitted to provide a proper response to the criticisms, and for this reason permission was granted for public disclosure of his report. Although publicity may deter experts from undertaking work in such cases, this was a matter which should be addressed by Parliament, the GMC or by the medical profession, not by the family courts controlling the manner in which information is disseminated.
Of particular note is the President’s strong encouragement of the practice of judges disclosing expert reports in family cases to media representatives for public comment and discussion. To date this has only happened very rarely. Although public disclosure of expert reports presents practical challenges to practitioners in such proceedings, it would have a real impact upon the extent to which the media could report such cases. This judgment may therefore have significant ramifications.