Full case report

Re Roddy (A Minor); Torbay Borough Council v Associated Newspapers Ltd

Reference [2003] EWHC 2927 (Fam); [2004] EMLR 127; [2004] 1 FCR 481
Court Family Division

Judge Munby J

Date of Judgment 2 Dec 2003


Summary

Family law- Human Rights – Children – local authorities – care proceedings- privacy – rights of mature teenager – Article 8 – Article 10- freedom of expression – proper approach to varying injunction


Facts

R became pregnant aged 12. She was made the subject of care proceedings and, at the instance of the local authority, injunctions were granted to protect her, and the putative father, from harmful publicity. R’s child was adopted. Later, aged nearly 17, with all care orders discharged, R sold a story about her experiences to a national newspaper group (ANL) which applied, with R’s support, to vary the injunctions to allow the story to be published, identifying R. No application was made to vary the injunctions protecting the putative father, and ANL gave assurances that it would not identify R’s child.


Issue

(1) The proper approach to the application to vary the injunctions
(2) Whether the existing injunctions should be maintained to protect R’s child
(3) Whether further injunctions should be granted to protect R’s child.


Held

(1) The court was required to take account of R’s Article 8 right to privacy and to balance this against Article 10 rights to freedom of expression: Re S (A Child) [2003] EWCA Civ 963. However R’s Article 8 right to respect for her private and family life was grounded in a right of autonomy (Pretty v United Kingdom (2002) 35 EHRR 1), and included a right to tell her story to whoever she chose. This was therefore to be added to the Article 10 rights of R and the ANL. As a mature teenager, R’s choices in the matter should be respected: Gillick v West Norfolk & Wisbech AHA [1986] AC 112.
(2) The maintenance of the existing injunctions to protect R’s child was not justified. However
(3) Fresh injunctions to protect the child were appropriate, as whatever assurances ANL might give there might be other publishers who might publish material harmful to the child.


Comment

The decision that a mature child’s choices should ordinarily be respected is clearly important, but the case has potentially wider applications. If the judge was right to say that the right to respect for privacy under Article 8 ECHR includes the right to respect for one’s decision to disclose, as well as her right not to disclose personal information could this have implications for the widely-discussed issue of how far celebrities are entitled to control publicity about their private lives without compromising privacy?


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Instructing Solicitors

Reynolds Porter Chamberlain