On 5 September 2012, five members of the Al-Hilli family from Surrey were travelling on holiday in Annecy in France when they were attacked by a gunman. The three adults in the car, and a passing cyclist, were shot dead. The older child, Zainab, was assaulted and badly injured. The younger child, Zeena, escaped without physical harm, apparently by hiding.
The case has attracted world-wide media attention.The tragic incident made the children orphans with no person having legal parental responsibility for them. Initially it was not possible for the children to be placed in the care of members of the extended family because one line of police investigation concerned the possible involvement of family members in the murders.
As a result, Surrey County Council commenced care proceedings in September 2012 and the girls were placed in foster care.
The principal issue in the care proceedings was whether the children should be placed with members of the extended family.
On 19 April 2013, the Chief Constable of Surrey, who had been joined to the proceedings in December 2012, applied without notice for an order pursuant to FPR r.27.11(3)(a)(i),(ii) and (b) to exclude media representatives from attending hearings in the case.
The Chief Constable sought such an order on the basis that:
(a) it was necessary in the interests of the girls and for the safety and protection of the girls and their carers having regard to the girls’ right to life under Article 2 ECHR; and
(b) it was necessary because justice would otherwise be impeded or impaired in respect of the French police investigation and the “secrecy” of investigation under Article 11 of the French judicial code.
On 19 April 2013, Baker J made an order excluding media representatives from that hearing, namely a freelance journalist who writes for the Sunday Times. That order was made without prejudice to his or the media’s right to return to argue the point in greater detail. The Chief Constable indicated that she intended to seek a continuation of the order excluding the media from future hearings, and TNL, the publishers of the Sunday Times, indicated that they would oppose such an application.