In Re R (Wardship: Restrictions on Publication): CA 1994

The parents had separated and the child made a ward of court. The mother had care and control and the father had access. The father abducted the child to Israel but she was recovered. The father was extradited to stand trial here. He sought publicity for his views upon the treatment of fathers by the family courts. In the Family Division, an order was made prohibiting publicity in very wide terms, which would have precluded virtually any reporting of the criminal proceedings. He appealed.
Held: The order was varied to permit the reporting of the father’s criminal trial. Save by statute reports of proceedings in a court should only be restrained ‘where and to the extent that restraint is shown to be necessary for the purpose of protecting the proper administration of justice’. Although publicity about the ward should be as limited as possible, restraining reports of the criminal trial was not necessary ‘to enable the judge to do justice in the wardship proceedings’. There was no statutory provision automatically restricting reporting, but section 39 did apply to enable the criminal court to prohibit identification of the ward as the victim of the alleged crime. He had ‘the greatest doubt’, about the first instance view on its power to restrain reporting of the criminal trial, but if he had he should have left it to the criminal judge to decide whether to do so.
Millett LJ said that apart from the contempt jurisdiction, ‘the wardship judge has an additional jurisdiction to prohibit the publication of information concerning the ward which is directed at the ward or at those having responsibility for the ward’s upbringing, thereby threatening the effective working of the court’s jurisdiction; . . this last mentioned jurisdiction is of recent origin. Its source and justification lie in the inherent power of the court to protect the integrity of its own process. There is no jurisdiction in the wardship court to protect its wards from adverse publicity which does not threaten the effective working of the court’s jurisdiction merely on the ground that such publicity would be contrary to the interests of the ward or damaging to his welfare’.
He drew a distinction between the inherent jurisdiction and the statutory powers under section 39 which ‘unlike the wardship jurisdiction’ could be used for the sole purpose of protecting children from harmful publicity. The limiting principle of the wardship jurisdiction: ‘may be expressed more generally by saying that the wardship court has no power to exempt its ward from the general law, or to obtain for its ward rights and privileges not generally available to children who are not wards of court; or by saying that the wardship court can seek to achieve for its ward all that wise parents or guardian acting in concert and exclusively in the interests of the child could achieve, but no more . . Nor can it protect the ward from adverse publicity as such.’


Sir Thomas Bingham MR, Millett LJ


[1994] Fam 254, [1994] 2 FLR 637, [1994] 3 All ER 658, [1994] 3 WLR 36


Children and Young Persons Act 1933 39


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedIn re S (A Child) (Identification: Restrictions on Publication) CA 10-Jul-2003
An order was sought to protect from publicity a child whose mother faced trial for the murder of his brother. The child was now in care.
Held: The court must balance the need to protect the child with the need for freedom of the press. The . .
CitedIn re S (a Child) (Identification: Restrictions on Publication) HL 28-Oct-2004
Inherent High Court power may restrain Publicity
The claimant child’s mother was to be tried for the murder of his brother by poisoning with salt. It was feared that the publicity which would normally attend a trial, would be damaging to S, and an application was made for reporting restrictions to . .
CitedKelly (A Minor) v British Broadcasting Corporation FD 25-Jul-2000
K, aged 16, had left home to join what was said to be a religious sect. His whereabouts were unknown. He had been made a ward of court and the Official Solicitor was appointed to represent his interests. He had sent messages to say that he was well . .
CitedH v A (No2) FD 17-Sep-2015
The court had previously published and then withdrawn its judgment after third parties had been able to identify those involved by pulling together media and internet reports with the judgment.
Held: The judgment case should be published in . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Children, Media

Updated: 16 May 2022; Ref: scu.185251