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Do you consider the privacy of children to be a top priority?

Last week, I wrote about child abduction. The mother unilaterally took the children to Ukraine. The father applied to the Press to have more freedom in reporting on the case and identifying the parties. This was in the hope of assisting their return. Now we know that Mr. Justice Mostyn ruled the press can publish the names and photos of the mother, her husband, and her father. This is a rare situation in child cases. The mother appealed the decision and the photographs and names will not be published.

Publication of information regarding a case involving children would be considered contempt of court. This could result in a sentence of prison or a fine. It is possible to request permission from the court to report. The BBC, Times Newspapers, and Associated Newspapers supported the father’s request in this case. He argued that allowing the press to publish the information would secure the return of his children, as he was concerned that the proceedings under the Hague Convention would fail.

Balance act

To determine family law south surrey and how the media should report on the case without infringing unnecessarily upon the privacy of the family, Mr. Justice Mostyn had the task of balancing the competing rights (rights to freedom to express, privacy, and right to fair trial). This is a delicate balance, particularly when children are involved. The court will consider what is in the best interests of the children and, in this instance, whether their privacy rights might be violated. While what is in the best interests of their children is not a “trump card”, it is very relevant.

The court will also consider the IPSO code. This law, which was in force in January 2016, means that editors must show an exceptional public interest to be able to override normal paramount interests for children under 16.

Children’s voice

Children reach a certain age and their opinions on what is best for them will be considered. This is especially true in cases involving child abduction, where the court might not have the opportunity to speak with the children or they are not located. Children are generally concerned about court reporters. This is evident from research into their reactions to hearings. They also worry about jigsaw identity. Although it is not a problem to hear the children’s opinions, the children are just 3 and 5 years old. However, the fact that their mother’s photograph and name will be on the paper will likely lead to a jigsaw ID. They aren’t named or in the country yet, but that doesn’t limit their potential impact. The fact that they are not named or in this country at this time would seem to be cause for concern. However, regardless of their age, the court must consider the future of the children and the digital footprint this case will create.

Future interest in the press

The court must also take into account the potential future interest of the press. Ironically, the possibility of additional press interest has increased because the application was made by the press.

Future implications

Some media reports today claim that the decision is a win for the media and that it could mean that abductor children will be ‘named & shamed’ in the future. I think that’s a bit too much. These cases are extremely fact-sensitive and nuanced. Each case will be unique and require the court to take into account the facts and the individuals involved to determine how to balance competing rights.

It will be interesting to see if the Court of Appeal will uphold the decision and agree that the case is of sufficient public interest to justify publication.

Catherine Morales

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