X v Dempster: FD 9 Nov 1998

The columnist Nigel Dempster had written that the mother in forthcoming proceedings relating to a child was a bad mother.
Held: The article was a contempt of court. Such an allegation required proof to the criminal standard. At common law the publisher had no liability in contempt without knowledge. Contempt applied as regards wards of court where the publication related to the children rather than the proceedings: ‘[E]vents in the lives of the children in the present case which are already in the public domain or which do not relate to the proceedings can be the subject of publication.’
The court set out rules for what could be published despite the existence of an order of wardship. There is no common law restraint on identification of parties to Children Act proceedings.


Wilson J


[1999] 1 FLR 894


England and Wales


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 . .
CitedRe W (Wards) (Publication of Information) FD 1989
An injunction was given to prohibit wards of court being named during the Cleveland child abuse inquiry. A summary of what has been said in court and written before hand in statements and reports are as much prohibited from publication as are direct . .
CitedPickering v Liverpool Daily Post and Echo Newspapers plc HL 1991
Damages were awarded for a breach of statutory duty where the claimant had suffered loss or damage by reason of the breach. The publication at issue went beyond reporting and ‘it reached deeply into the substance of the matter which the court had . .

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 . .
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 . .
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 . .
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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Family, Contempt of Court

Updated: 03 February 2022; Ref: scu.194851