Norfolk County Council v Webster and others: FD 1 Nov 2006

The claimants wished to claim that they were victims of a miscarriage of justice in the way the Council had dealt with care proceedings. They sought that the proceedings should be reported without the children being identified.
Held: A judge must adopt the same ‘parallel analysis’ leading to the same ‘ultimate balancing test’, as described in In re S and W, which is applicable in deciding whether to relax or enhance reporting restrictions. What has to be struck is the proper balance between publicity and privacy, though this is complex. The order made was too wide in its restrictions: ‘Even if all the guardian’s concerns were fully justified, that could not in my judgment justify the prohibition of publishing anything at all about the case.’ In this case the child’s photograph was already in the public domain, and it would be disproportionate not to allow the parents to carry forward their case under their own full names. It was not for the court to specify which parts of the media might be allowed access, but it remained the case that members of the public would be excluded. Certain controls would remain as to the reporting of witness’s names.
Whilst the issue of transparency and openness in the family courts is the subject of an ongoing and sometimes vigorous debate, applications concerning the publication of information relating to family proceedings ‘fall to be determined by reference to the law as it is, not the law as some might think it ought to be.’

Munby J
[2006] EWHC 2733 (Fam), [2007] EMLR 199, (2007) HRLR 3, [2007] 1 FLR 1146, [2007] HRLR 3, [2008] 1 FCR 440, [2007] Fam Law 399
Children Act 1989 97(2), Administration of Justice Act 1960 12, Family Proceedings Rules 1991 4.16(7), European Convention on Human Rights 6 8
England and Wales
CitedScott v Scott HL 5-May-1913
Presumption in Favour of Open Proceedings
There had been an unauthorised dissemination by the petitioner to third parties of the official shorthand writer’s notes of a nullity suit which had been heard in camera. An application was made for a committal for contempt.
Held: The House . .
CitedIn re F (otherwise A ) (A Minor) (Publication of Information) CA 1977
An allegation of contempt was made in proceedings related to the publication by a newspaper of extracts from a report by a social worker and a report by the Official Solicitor, both prepared after the commencement and for the purpose of the wardship . .
CitedAttorney-General v Leveller Magazine Ltd HL 1-Feb-1979
The appellants were magazines and journalists who published, after committal proceedings, the name of a witness, a member of the security services, who had been referred to as Colonel B during the hearing. An order had been made for his name not to . .
Citedex parte Guardian Newspapers Ltd CACD 30-Sep-1998
The defendants purported to serve a notice under Rule 24A(1) of the Crown Court Rules 1982 of an intention to apply for a hearing in camera of their application that the trial be stopped as an abuse of process.
Held: Where an application was . .
CitedPretto And Others v Italy ECHR 8-Dec-1983
The court considered the value of court proceedings being public: ‘The public character of proceedings before the judicial bodies referred to in Article 6(1) protects litigants against the administration of justice in secret with no public scrutiny; . .
CitedAxen v Germany ECHR 8-Dec-1983
‘The public character of proceedings before the judicial bodies referred to in Article 6(1) protects litigants against the administration of justice in secret with no public scrutiny; it is also one of the means whereby confidence in the courts, . .
CitedReynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd and others HL 28-Oct-1999
Fair Coment on Political Activities
The defendant newspaper had published articles wrongly accusing the claimant, the former Prime Minister of Ireland of duplicity. The paper now appealed, saying that it should have had available to it a defence of qualified privilege because of the . .
CitedDiennet v France ECHR 26-Sep-1995
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Violation of Art. 6-1 (publicly); No violation of Art. 6-1 (impartiality); Non-pecuniary damage – finding of violation sufficient; Costs and expenses partial award – . .
CitedRegina v Felixstowe Justices ex parte Leigh CA 1987
The court considered the importance of the role played by the media in attending and reporting court proceedings. Watkins LJ said: ‘The role of the journalist and his importance for the public interest in the administration of justice has been . .
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 . .
CitedBergens Tidende And Others v Norway ECHR 2-May-2000
A newspaper complained that its rights under Article 10 of the Convention had been infringed by a libel action which a cosmetic surgeon had successfully brought against it in respect of defamatory articles it had published saying he was incompetent. . .
CitedRe X (Disclosure of Information) FD 2001
There cannot be an expectation that expert evidence given in a children’s court will always stay confidential. The various aspects of confidentiality will have greater or lesser weight on the facts of each case. Munby J: ‘Wrapped up in this concept . .
CitedPrager And Oberschlick v Austria ECHR 26-Apr-1995
Article 10 requires that journalists be permitted a good deal of latitude in how they present their material and that a degree of exaggeration must also be accepted. The media have a special place in any democratic society as purveyor of information . .
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 . .
CitedAllan v Clibbery (1) CA 30-Jan-2002
Save in cases involving children and ancillary and other situations requiring it, cases in the family division were not inherently private. The appellant failed to obtain an order that details of an action under the section should not be disclosed . .
CitedMcCartan Turkington Breen (A Firm) v Times Newspapers Limited HL 2-Nov-2000
(Northern Ireland) The defendant reported a press conference at which the claims denying the criminal responsibility of an army private were made. The report was severely critical of the claimants, who then sued in defamation. The defendants claimed . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for The Home Department Ex Parte Simms HL 8-Jul-1999
Ban on Prisoners talking to Journalists unlawful
The two prisoners, serving life sentences for murder, had had their appeals rejected. They continued to protest innocence, and sought to bring their campaigns to public attention through the press, having oral interviews with journalists without . .
CitedHarris v Harris; Harris v Attorney General FD 21-May-2001
The applicant had been committed for ten months for contempt, being in breach of family court injunctions. He applied to be released after two months on the basis that the unserved balance of the sentence be suspended. The court held that it had the . .
CitedClayton v Clayton CA 27-Jun-2006
The family had been through protracted family law proceedings and had been subject to orders restricting identification. The father now wanted to discuss his experiences and to campaign. He could not do so without his child being identified.
CitedA Local Authority v W L W T and R; In re W (Children) (Identification: Restrictions on Publication) FD 14-Jul-2005
An application was made by a local authority to restrict publication of the name of a defendant in criminal proceedings in order to protect children in their care. The mother was accused of having assaulted the second respondent by knowingly . .
CitedGhaidan v Godin-Mendoza HL 21-Jun-2004
Same Sex Partner Entitled to tenancy Succession
The protected tenant had died. His same-sex partner sought a statutory inheritance of the tenancy.
Held: His appeal succeeded. The Fitzpatrick case referred to the position before the 1998 Act: ‘Discriminatory law undermines the rule of law . .
CitedPelling v Bruce-Williams, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs intervening CA 5-Jul-2004
The applicant sought an order that his application for a joint residence order should be held in public.
Held: Though there was some attractiveness in the applicant’s arguments, the issue had been fully canvassed by the ECHR. The time had come . .
CitedB v The United Kingdom; P v The United Kingdom ECHR 2001
The provisions of rule 4.16(7) providing for confidentiality in children proceedings were Convention compliant: ‘such proceedings are prime examples of cases where the exclusion of the press and public may be justified in order to protect the . .
CitedMoser v Austria ECHR 2006
The applicant’s son had been taken into care by a public authority. The family complained that the proceedings had been held in secret.
Held: There had been a breach of Article 6, inter alia on the ground that the hearing had not been in . .
CitedIn re L (Care: Assessment: Fair Trial) FD 2002
The court set out precepts to be followed by courts in preparing for care proceedings so as to ensure that they did not infringe the rights of the family to respect for their family life under article 8.
Munby J said: ‘ . . it must never be . .
CitedRe B (Disclosure to Other Parties) 2001
Witnesses and others involved in children proceedings have article 8 rights. . .
CitedZ v Finland ECHR 25-Feb-1997
A defendant had appealed against his conviction for manslaughter and related offences by deliberately subjecting women to the risk of being infected by him with HIV virus. The applicant, Z, had been married to the defendant, and infected by him with . .
CitedWhitney v California 1927
(United States) Brandeis J considered that the risk of mis-reporting of court proceedings was in fact a reason for more court reporting: ‘If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes . .
CitedIn re W (Wardship: Discharge: Publicity) CA 1995
Four wards of court aged between nine and 14 had given an interview to a newspaper reporter, who plainly knew that they were wards of court, in circumstances which clearly troubled both the Official Solicitor, their guardian ad litem, who . .
CitedCream Holdings Limited and others v Banerjee and others HL 14-Oct-2004
On her dismissal from the claimant company, Ms Banerjee took confidential papers revealing misconduct to the local newspaper, which published some. The claimant sought an injunction to prevent any further publication. The defendants argued that the . .
CitedRe Angela Roddy (a child) (identification: restriction on publication), Torbay Borough Council v News Group Newspapers FD 2-Dec-2003
A twelve year old girl had become pregnant. The Catholic Church was said to have paid her not to have an abortion. After the birth she and her baby were taken into care. The authority proposed the adoption of the baby. There was more publicity. . .
CitedRe H (Freeing Orders: Publicity) CA 2005
Wall LJ said: ‘Cases involving children are currently heard in private in order to protect the anonymity of the children concerned. However, the exclusion of the public from family courts, and the lack of knowledge about what happens in them, easily . .
CitedIn re W (Children) (Care Proceedings: Witness anonymity) CA 7-Oct-2002
In care proceedings, the court had allowed a social worker to give evidence in such a way that her identity was hidden. She was in fear of violence.
Held: It was possible for a civil court to provide anonymity. These public law proceedings . .
CitedBritish Broadcasting Company v Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council and X and Y FD 24-Nov-2005
Application was made by the claimant for orders discharging an order made in 1991 to protect the identity of children and social workers embroiled in allegations of satanic sex abuse. The defendant opposed disclosure of the names of two social . .
See AlsoRe a Minor CC 21-May-2004
(Norfolk County Court) . .
Appeal fromNorfolk County Council v Webster CC 24-Nov-2004
(Norwich County Court) . .

Cited by:
See AlsoNorfolk County Council v Webster and others FD 17-Nov-2006
There had been care proceedings following allegations of physical child abuse. There had been a residential assessment. The professionals accepted the parents’ commitment to their son, but also found that they were unreliable. It was recommended . .
CitedLord Browne of Madingley v Associated Newspapers Ltd CA 3-Apr-2007
The appellant sought to restrict publication by the defendants in the Mail on Sunday of matters which he said were a breach of confidence. He had lied to a court in giving evidence, whilst at the same time being ready to trash the reputation of his . .
CitedBritish Broadcasting Corporation v CAFCASS Legal and others FD 30-Mar-2007
Parents of a child had resisted care proceedings, and now wished the BBC to be able to make a TV programme about their case. They applied to the court for the judgment to be released. Applications were also made to have a police officer’s and . .
CitedDoctor A and Others v Ward and Another FD 8-Jan-2010
Parents wished to publicise the way care proceedings had been handled, naming the doctors, social workers and experts some of whom had been criticised. Their names had been shown as initials so far, and interim contra mundum orders had been made . .
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.

Litigation Practice, Media, Children, Local Government, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.245938