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(Family Division, Cobb J, 21 May 2013)
The mother of eight children was currently standing trial for serious benefit fraud in relation to DLA, Carer's Allowance and tax credits. An earlier reporting restriction order prohibited the identification of the children due to the powerful Art 8 rights under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950. In the criminal proceedings the judge had finished summing up and the jury had retired to consider its verdict. The question arose whether if the mother were convicted whether the reporting restriction should remain in place.
In conducting the balancing exercise in the event of a conviction the judge recognised that neither Art 8 nor Art 10 of the European Convention took precedence and carefully considered the importance of each claim. Finally the test of proportionality was applied.
The marginal re-weighting of factors in the event of a conviction tilted the balance in favour of freedom of expression. The Art 10 right to publish the mother's name as a convicted person would prevail over the right of the whole family to anonymity. It would be unconscionable for the public not to know the name of a person convicted of a substantial fraud upon the State.
In striking a proportionate balance between the competing Convention rights, if publication was likely to lead to the identification of the children or the father as being involved or named in the criminal proceedings and/or as being identified as children of the mother: there would be no publication of the father's and the children's forenames, no publication of their photos, no reporting of any of their medical conditions. While the Crown Court, trial judge and county in which the criminal proceedings took place could be reported, no more specific information as to their location could be identified.
Those who cheated the over-stretched resources of the welfare State could neither generally nor reasonably expect to escape the proper reporting of their wrongdoing or hope to achieve concealment of their identities.
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