Statement by Mr Justice Peter Jackson: Poppi Worthington - reasons for the current reporting restrictions
I am making this statement to explain why I have made a limited
reporting restriction order in the course of family proceedings relating to the
siblings of Poppi Worthington, and why I have not at this stage published a
judgment given in March 2014 at the end of a fact-finding hearing into the
circumstances of her death.
Poppi Worthington died on 12 December 2012. The inquest into her death was concluded by
HM Coroner on 21 October 2014. Some concern
has subsequently been expressed about the lack of information that is currently
available to the public.
The conduct of an inquest is a matter for HM Coroner, and
not for this court. This court’s task is
to make appropriate orders in relation to Poppi’s siblings and, where reporting
restrictions are proposed, to balance the rights of individuals to protection
alongside the interests of the public in freedom of information and the
upholding of the criminal law.
Family court proceedings in relation to the surviving children
were not started until October 2013. In
March 2014, I gave judgment at the end of a substantial fact-finding
hearing. My usual practice, consistent
with the practice of the Family Court as a whole, is to publish any significant
judgment on the internet, in anonymised form where necessary. For the reasons that appear below, I am not
yet able to follow the usual practice in this case.
Furthermore, in July 2014, I made a reporting restriction
order, after receiving submissions from the parties to the family proceedings
and on behalf of most of the main UK media organisations, specifically:
News and Media Ltd
The reporting restriction order prohibits the identification
of the surviving children or their mother, or their homes, schools, nurseries,
or home town.
The order does not prevent the naming of Poppi, or her
father, or reporting of the circumstances of her death, provided that any
report would not lead to the identification of the surviving children or their
reporting restrictions are significantly narrower than those argued for by the
parties to the family proceedings: indeed they are broadly those that the media
itself acknowledged to be appropriate at the time.
Later in July, the media
organisations applied for sight of my fact-finding judgment. That application was opposed by the local
authority and the parents, but supported by the Children’s Guardian. I approved disclosure of the judgment to the
lawyers acting for the media organisations on condition of confidentiality, so
that they can understand the reasons for the reporting restrictions and keep the
position under review. My decision is
available on the Bailii website at Cumbria County Council v M and F  EWHC 2596 (Fam).
The reasons why I have
not published my judgment at this stage and why the specific reporting
restrictions are in place are these:
Firstly, as to the
publication of the fact-finding judgment.
As a result of the judgment, further police investigations into Poppi’s
death are now taking place. A decision by
the Crown Prosecution Service may then follow. In the interests of justice It is essential that
this process is allowed to take place without interference and that any
criminal proceedings are not prejudiced.
Secondly, as to the
reporting restictions. Poppi’s siblings
are very young and they are still fragile following the death of their
sister. The plans for their future are
presently at a critical stage. If they were
identified publicly it would harm them.
The reporting restrictions
are not set in stone. They are expressly
open to review. So far, no application
has been made by anyone to vary their terms, or to seek the publication of the
fact-finding judgment, but if an application is made, I will consider it on its
I understand the
concern that arises when the circumstances of a child’s death are not made
known. Although this is not primarly a task
for the family court, I will consider whether the fact-finding judgment can be
published as soon as it is possible to do so.
This case raises wider issues. For that reason, the fact-finding judgment was
sent at the time it was given to the following agencies:
Chief Executive of Cumbria
Statutory Lead Member for Children’s Services, Cumbria County Council
Chair of Cumbria County Council’s Scrutiny Advisory Board - Children and Young
IRO service manager for Cumbria
Independent Chair of the Cumbria Local Safeguarding Children’s Board
Department of Education (for the attention of the national panel of independent
experts on Serious Case Reviews)
Chief Constable of Cumbria
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cumbria
Independent Police Complaints Commission
Crown Prosecution Service
Chair of the relevant NHS Foundation Trust
Care Quality Commission
Chief Coroner for England
circumstances of Poppi’s death will surely become known to the public in due
course but, for the reasons that I have given, limited reporting restrictions remain
necessary at this point in time and the fact-finding judgment of this court cannot
yet be published.