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18 JUL 2008

PUBLICITY/CARE PROCEEDINGS: Medway Council v G [2008] EWHC 1681

(Family Division; Sir Mark Potter P; 18 July 2008)

The newspaper wished to report and comment on care proceedings concerning an 8 year old child currently living somewhere abroad with the mother. The mother had abducted the child from his foster placement, assisted by the child's step-father, the mother's current husband, who was now serving 16 months imprisonment for his part in the abduction. The newspaper at one stage sought publication of the care proceedings judgments to date, with the aim of informing the public debate concerning the case; however, after the local authority produced a summary of the facts in the proceedings in a form that the newspaper considered sufficient and satisfactory, and with which the other parties were content, the newspaper withdrew that application.

Previous judicial encouragement of the publication of judgments in care cases, subject to anonymisation in the child's interests, had not anticipated publication of judgments before final orders had been made, and the welfare interests of the child finally adjudicated. The rival arguments of both sides in this case, if fully deployed, would have involved a detailed weighing of the various human rights involved, had the parties not reached agreement. However, despite the fact that the proceedings were not yet concluded, the level of interest created in this instance made a very strong case for the background of the case to be made more widely known, to enable the public to form its own view. Provided the child's anonymity was preserved, comment upon the proceedings as set out in the agreed summary would not invade the child's Art 8 rights any more than the publicity to date. Identification of the local authority did not pose a significant risk to the child.

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