Full case report

Re LM (Reporting Restrictions: Coroner’s Inquest)

Reference [2007] EWHC 1902 (Fam); (2008) 99 BMLR 11; The Times, 20 November 2007
Court Family Division

Judge Sir Mark Potter

Date of Judgment 1 Aug 2007


Summary

Family law – Reporting restrictions – Inquest – Injunctions – Human rights – Privacy – Article 8 ECHR – Freedom of expression – Article 10 ECHR


Facts

An inquest was due to take place into the death of a child ‘L’, who, in care proceedings, had been found to have died as a result of physical ill-treatment by her mother. L’s younger brother had also died when he was 7 months old, with no cause of death established. L’s younger sister, LM, aged 5 at the time of the application, was placed with foster parents while she sought an adoptive placement. LM’s guardian, supported by the local authority and LM’s parents sought an order restricting the identification of LM and also of both parents and her siblings, as they claimed that such identification would lead to identification of LM. They claimed such identification would cause her harm and difficulty in obtaining adoption. The media agreed not to report any reference to LM but maintained they were entitled to report the identfication of her parents and siblings.


Issue

(1) Whether the principles in Re S require modication or qualification when the proceedings were inquest proccedings as oppose to criminal proceedings.

(2) Whether the potential interference with LM’s Art 8 rights was sufficient to justify the interference with the media’s Art 10 right to fully report the inquest proceedings.


Held

(1) The principles in Re S did not require modication or qualification in the present case which was an inquest as oppose to criminal proceedings;

(2) An order was made to restrict the reporting of the identity of LM as this was necessary to protect her from the media attention as the sole surviving child of the family. The Court did not grant an injunction preventing the identification of her parents or siblings, as it was not satisfied that such publicity would act as a barrier to LM’s future adoption or that it would result in long-term stigma equivalent to that of the child in Re W, and such a restriction would not justify the interference with the media’s Art 10 rights to fully report the proceedings.


Comment

A victory for the press. The facts of this case were similar to those of Re S, the principle difference being that the proceedings were an inquest into the death of the child rather than a criminal trial. The court held that this made no difference in this case to the principles to be applied. The hurdle for applicants is high; the facts have to be ‘sufficiently unusual or exceptional’ to justify any restrictions on the the rights of free press and the interests of open justice.


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Instructing Solicitors

Harney & Co and Holden & Co for the respondents; Stephen Rimmer & Co for the child's guardian; BBC and Times Newspapers for the media