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(Family Division, Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, 14 January 2014)
In proceedings involving a 12-year-old boy who was born in England but both he and his mother were Slovak citizens orders were made authorising the placement of the boy in the care of his maternal aunt under the care of the local authority. The proceedings had been reported on by the Slovakian media.
Permission was granted to the head of the consular section of the embassy of the Slovak Republic in London to attend the hearings and pursuant to an Art 55 request under BIIR, the local authority was permitted to disclose information about the proceedings to the Slovakian Central Authority. The Slovakian Central Authority formally accepted the jurisdiction of the English court.
The President offered extensive guidance on the operation of BIIR, the Vienna Convention and reporting restriction orders, highlighting the importance of transparency and openness between the English family court and the consular and other authorities of foreign states.
In the circumstances of this case, there was an obvious and compelling need for public debate to be free and unrestricted and for the mother to be permitted to tell her story. But those aims did not require the boy and his carers to be identified. The reporting restriction order did not restrict the mother from printing anything in the foreign media as long as it was not in English or on the internet in a way that led to the identification of the boy.
The English court could not attempt to either directly or indirectly to control the foreign media but a different approach might be justified where internet or satellite technology was used.
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