In re M (a Child) (Disclosure: Children and Family Reporter): CA 31 Jul 2002

A Children and Family reporter became concerned at the possibility of abuse of children as a result of information gained whilst involved in private law proceedings. He sought to report those concerns to the statutory authorities. It had become clear that it was crucially important that professions within the child care professions must communicate properly with each other. It would not be contempt of court under the 1989 Act. However the reporter must be careful to examine the nature and reliability of the report, and it would be unusual for it to be appropriate to report matters heard at second hand, but must in any event report his actions at the earliest possible opportunity to the judge in the matter in which he was employed. The court considered what was the nature of publication: ‘Both section 12 of the 1060 Act and section 97 of the 1989 Act raise the same question: what is meant by publication? Mr Spon-Smith offers us the definition in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. Mr Everall counters with Arlidge, Eady and Smith on Contempt, 2nd ed (1999), para 8-79. The authors there submit that the statutory language should be given the wide interpretation of the law of defamation: it should not be confined to information communicated through the media but should extend to private communications to individuals. I do not read a narrower sense in the dictionary definition and would accept that a conversation between the CFR and another individual might amount to publication, but I cannot accept that a CFR publishes, and thereby exposes himself to a risk of contempt, when he reports concerns to the relevant statutory authority charged with the collection and investigation of material suggestive of child abuse. Such a communication between two professionals exchanging information in the course of their respective functions, each acting in furtherance of the protection of children, does not constitute a publication breaching the privacy of contemporaneous Children Act proceedings.’


Lord Justice Thorpe and Mr Justice Wall


Times 23-Aug-2002, Gazette 10-Oct-2002, [2002] EWCA Civ 1199, [2003] Fam 26


Administration of Justice Act 1960 12, Children Act 1989 97


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedKent County Council v The Mother, The Father, B (By Her Children’s Guardian); Re B (A Child) (Disclosure) FD 19-Mar-2004
The council had taken the applicant’s children into care alleging that the mother had harmed them. In the light of the subsequent cases casting doubt on such findings, the mother sought the return of her children. She applied now that the hearings . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Children, Contempt of Court

Updated: 08 May 2022; Ref: scu.174734