Reporting restriction on arrested child to stay, High Court rules

Family Law|May 23rd 2016

A restricting restriction order in relation to a child arrested for suspected involvement in terrorism must remain in place, the High Court has ruled.

In the recently published case of Re S, the Daily Mail had published an article on its website in August last year about the arrest of a pupil at a London school “in connection with terrorist offences”, identifying the child in question. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets quickly contacted Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers to complain that the article was in breach of orders issued in the Family Division, and it was taken down within hours.

The previous day, The Sun had published a similar article in its print edition which also identified the child.

The local authority applied for and was granted a temporary reporting restriction order (RRO), prohibiting any identification of the child in question, including members of their family. Five members of the child’s family had been arrested in total, including three children.

The order was due to expire on the 17th August.

As the expiry date approached, counsel for Associated Newspapers argued against continuation. In the High Court Mr Justice Hayden, who has due to rule on the child’s welfare, agreed to a separate hearing on the continuation or otherwise of the reporting restriction.

Associated Newspapers accepted that details of the welfare ruling should remain private, but took the view that:

“…an arrest… is a fundamental aspect of the administration of the criminal justice system: the public interest in knowing both the names of those who are arrested and the offences for which they are arrested is so integral to public confidence in the system that the information should only be withheld if ‘absolutely necessary’ “

In addition, they argued that:

“The RRO in the present form prevents publication of the fact of the arrest of five family members with connections with terrorist offences, which is ‘unwarranted’.”

Mr Justice Hayden was unpersuaded. He noted that family law practice and precedent both place considerable emphasis on the protecting the anonymity of children who might suffer emotional harm if exposed to the glare of publicity. In addition, he quoted from the Editor’s Code of Practice, which stresses the importance of privacy and respect for family life, as well as the right of children to freedom from press intrusion.

He declared:

“Accordingly…I am driven to the clear conclusion that the RRO granted…should continue in the terms drafted.”

There was an important balance to be struck on the issue of transparency in the family courts, said the Judge, between the right to freedom of expression, as defined by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the right to respect for privacy and family life, as defined by Article 8.

Mr Justice Hayden also noted:

“As I have already explained in earlier judgments, concerns relating to the radicalisation of minors are a new facet of child protection. Nonetheless, it is important that the professionals involved hold fast to tried and tested principles of comprehensive risk assessment and guard against the kind of moral panic that can all too quickly be generated by what are for many, not just the families involved, highly emotive issues.”

The judgement can be read here.

Image by Baltimore City Paper via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Author: Stowe Family Law

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