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Family Law

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01 AUG 2007

HUMAN RIGHTS: Re LM (Reporting Restrictions: Coroner's Request) [2007] EWHC 1902 (Fam)

(Family Division; Sir Mark Potter P; 1 August 2007)

The child's younger brother and older sister had died in suspicious circumstances. In civil proceedings it was found that the death of the older sister had been caused by the mother's physical ill-treatment of her. The child was removed into foster care and advertised for adoption.

An inquest into the death of the older sister was opened and the judge who had heard the civil proceedings made an order that the Coroner should return the matter to the Family Division before taking any steps which might lead to the identity of the child becoming known in the public domain. Notwithstanding the order, the child's guardian, supported by the local authority and the parents, sought a reporting restriction to protect the child being identified in connection with the inquest, which would include an order preventing the press and other media from reporting the names and addresses not only of the child but also of the parents and the siblings. Times Newspapers Limited and the BBC argued that in accordance with the principles laid out in Re S (A Child) (Identification: Restrictions on Publication) [2005] 1 AC 593 reporting restrictions relating to the mother, the father and the two siblings could not be justified.

The main issue was whether the interference with the child's Art 8 rights under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950, which would result from the identification of her mother and siblings, could be justified.

The Art 10 rights of the media were not outweighed by the child's Art 8 rights. In a situation where a child has suffered from a homicide in the family there are inevitable difficulties. Publicising the mother's identity and that of the older sister would not act as a barrier to the future adoption of the child. Sufficient likelihood of lasting harm to the child which was directly referable to the publicity, as distinct from the general background, could not be established. It was not likely that the death of the older sister was a news story with the potential to reappear repeatedly in the future. The principles laid down in Re S could be applied to inquest proceedings, concerned as they were with the public examination of circumstances surrounding the death of an individual in circumstances calling for an inquiry.

Reporting restrictions were ordered in respect of the child's identity only. The media would not be prevented from identifying the mother, father and siblings.

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