Posted on 10th December 2009

Fears New Law Could Put Vulnerable Childrens Privacy at Risk

Latimer Hinks solicitors family law expert Judith Middleton has backed an academic report, which fears Government plans to relax media reporting of family courts could put vulnerable childrens privacy at risk.

The Children, Schools and Families Bill, which is awaiting its second reading in Parliament, plans to allow the media to report details of individual cases and name expert witnesses.

Although the Bill pledges to keep childrens identities secret, the recently published report* says that the Bill lacks sufficient clarity surrounding privacy.

Its concerns centre on the changes allowing very personal details of vulnerable children and adults to be published in local and national newspapers and online. It says while journalists will not be able to name children and families that will not necessarily prevent them from being identified.

Judith Middleton, a Partner at Latimer Hinks, said: Any information put into the public domain about a family matter must be suitably anomymised.

But it must be realised, there will be some cases where no amount of removal of detail will be sufficient to protect the identities of the parties or their family members. In these cases, the judge should have the power to prevent the publication of reports of the hearings.

She added: I believe that justice must be seen to be done and, in principle, welcome allowing the media to report family courts as I am in favour of transparency and openness.

However, this must be balanced by individual entitlement to confidentiality and privacy. Children, in particular, are entitled to protection of their privacy. The wording of the new Bill must take this into account.