Identity of social workers may be published following fostering bungle

question-mark-face Bristol City Council v C and others [2012] EWHC 3748 (Fam) – read judgment

This was an application for a reporting restriction order arising out of care proceedings conducted before the Bristol Family Proceedings Court. The proceedings themselves were relatively straightforward but, in the course of the hearing, information came to light which gave rise to concerns of an “unusual nature”, which alerted the interest of the press.

Background

After family court proceedings decided that child A was at risk of violence from her father, an interim care order was implemented and A was moved to foster carers. However some time afterwards the local authority received information from the police suggesting that someone living at the address of A’s foster carers had had access to child pornography. A also told social workers that another member of the foster household (also respondent to this action) had grabbed her around the throat. As a consequence police and social services visited the foster carers, informed them of the concerns about pornography, removed all computers from the house and moved A to another foster home. On the following day the male foster carer was found dead, having apparently committed suicide. Continue reading

Levi Bellfield newspaper articles were in contempt of court

Millie Dowler

HM Attorney General v Associated Newspapers Ltd & Anor [2012] EWHC 2029 (Admin) (18 July 2012) Read judgment.

The Divisional Court ruled that reports of Levi Bellfield in the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, published while a jury was considering his charge of attempted kidnapping, were in contempt of court.

On 6 May 2011, Levi Bellfield’s trial for the murder of Milly Dowler and attempted kidnap of Rachel Cowles began. He had already been convicted in 2008 of the murders of Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange, and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy. On 23 June 2011, the jury convicted Mr Bellfield of the murder of Milly Dowler, but had yet to return a verdict on the charge of attempted kidnapping. The Daily Mail and Daily Mirror printed stories on 24 June 2011 including information that wasn’t before the jury in the trial. The question in the resultant contempt proceedings was whether these articles violated the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (CCA).

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Times contempt challenge thrown out in Strasbourg

Michael Alexander SECKERSON and TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED against the UK Applications nos. 32844/10 and 33510/10 – Read decision / press release

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected as “inadmissible” Times Newspaper’s challenge to its 2009 conviction for contempt of court. The decision, which was made by seven judges, is a good example of an early stage “strike-out” by the Court which is nonetheless a substantial, reasoned decision (see our posts on the “UK loses 3 out of 4 cases at the court” controversy).

It has been a bad 24 hours for The Times, with its editor being recalled to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics yesterday to answer questions about the hacking of a police blogger’s email account to reveal his secret identity, and subsequent disclosure (and lack thereof) to the High Court. Ultimately, James Harding appeared to blame the Times’ now-departed in-house lawyer as well as “legal privilege” – see Professor Richard Moorhead’s excellent post on the ethical issues surrounding this.

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Analysis – Daily Mirror and The Sun in contempt over Jo Yeates murder case

Her Majesty’s Attorney-General Claimant – and – (1) MGN Limited Defendants (2) News Group Newspapers Limited – Read judgment

The High Court has found that the Daily Mirror and The Sun were in breach of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (1981 Act) in relation to their reporting of the Jo Yeates murder case. The court was strongly critical of the “vilification” of a man who was arrested but quickly released without charge.

The proceedings were in relation to Christopher Jefferies, a school teacher who was arrested early on in the investigation. The court fined the Daily Mirror £50,000 and The Sun £18,000.

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Silence please: A Facebook contempt of court – allegedly

A juror has found herself facing contempt of court charges, it being alleged that she communicated on Facebook with a defendant who had already been acquitted.

These types of proceedings can have human rights implications in two ways: Article 6, providing the right to a fair trial can be infringed upon by improper communicaton by jurors, and to a lesser extent, Article 10, which provides the right to freedom of expression may be engaged. As Article 10 includes a large number of circumstances where freedom of expression may be lawfully restricted, raising freedom of expression arguments to challenge the bringing of contempt proceedings would be very unlikely to succeed in these circumstances.

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Attorney General blames blogosphere for frenzied media

The Attorney General has warned publishers that the law may be changed to prevent them revealing the names of criminal suspects before they are charged. He also blamed the “massive” and “frenzied”coverage of pre-charge suspects in part on pressure on newspapers from the blogosphere.

Dominic Grieve told Joshua Rozenberg on yesterday’s Law in Action (listen here):

We seem to be living a world where because of competing interests on newspapers, perhaps in part because of the internet, because of the fact they are competing with the blogosphere where people are publishing a great deal of material, national newspapers are keen to give as much background detail to their readers as possible at early stages of criminal investigations. (09:25)

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