With the progress gradually being made toward more openness in family court proceedings, there’s increasing discussion about who should and who should not be named and identified in judgments and reports. Although there is consensus (and law) that children should normally not be identifiable, this principle does not always mean that professionals or organisations that are involved in a case also need to be anonymised.
Abbasi & ors v Newcastle NHS Trust & ors is a new Court of Appeal judgment about reporting restrictions on identifying medical professionals who had been treating children in what were, sadly, end of life circumstances It is helpful guidance in a broader senses, as analysed by Lucy Reed on her Pink Tape blog.
So far as this judgment settles wider issues for family court proceedings in general, basically what it tells us is that a class or group of practitioners, such as doctors or social workers, do not have enhanced privacy rights simply because of their status. They individually have privacy rights and they may individually argue that these outweigh another party’s rights to freedom of expression. However, as Lucy’s blog post explains, the long established test for balancing Article 8 privacy rights and Article 10 freedom of expression rights means that the individual professional Article 8 claimant needs evidence of the breach or risk of breach of their rights, just as any other claimant would.
It should be noted however, that it appears to be accepted practice not to identify local authority frontline social workers in court judgments in circumstances where they were working within their employers’ and managers’ policies and procedures. In the Reporting Pilot Courts (Cardiff, Carlisle and Leeds) the standard Transparency Order will only permit more senior staff to be named.
This judgment and the judicial review discussed in our previous post, indicate the strong line the judiciary are now taking in requiring concrete evidence to support applications that they see as derogating from the open justice principle.