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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

06 JAN 2014

REPORTING RESTRICTION: Re P (Enforced Caesarean: Reporting Restrictions) [2013] EWHC 4048 (Fam)

(Family Division, Sir J Munby P, 17 December 2013)

The Italian mother travelled to the UK whilst pregnant and during her visit suffered a panic attack which necessitated her detention pursuant to s 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983. Following several weeks of detention the NHS Trust was granted authorisation by the Court of Protection to deliver the baby and, if necessary, to use appropriate restraint. The child was made subject to an interim care order and had since remained in the care of foster carers. The mother returned to Italy. Final care and placement orders were made and the mother sought to challenge them through the Italian courts.

The case had attracted extensive media coverage which prompted the local authority to issue a statement setting out the main facts. The case had been remitted to the President of the Family Division but a number of key facts, including the circumstances surrounding the transfer to the President had been misreported in the media. An application was made by the local authority for a without notice reporting restriction order but was initially refused by the President. The application was now renewed on notice.

While the reporting of the case had at times been inaccurate the President reiterated the principles in Re J (A Child) [2013] EWHC 2694 (Fam), in particular, that the court was not in a position to exercise editorial control over what is reported which might be inaccurate or ill-informed but the fear of that was no justification for restricting media reporting.

The facts of the case required a balance to be struck between the competing interests of the public, the mother and the child. Given the circumstances of the case and the extreme gravity of the issues involved it was hard to imagine a case which more obviously and compellingly required that public debate be free and unrestricted.

The mother had an equally obvious and compelling claim to tell her story to the world. To deny the mother the right to speak out and voice her complaints about the Family Justice System would be an affront to the law and to any remotely acceptable concept of human dignity. However, the child had an equally compelling claim to privacy and anonymity.

In the circumstances of the case, in which the mother had already been identified, any argument that if the mother was identified that would in some way lead to the identification of the child was little more than fanciful.  There were very compelling arguments that the mother should not merely be enabled to tell her story to the world at large but moreover that she should be enabled to do so by reference to her name and if this was what she wanted, to allow her photograph to be published. An order was granted permitting the mother to identify herself in the media but preventing identification of the child. 

 

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