For background on this case see the whole of the internet for the first week in December…
[The basic facts, established from the judgments rather than doughty investigative journalism… Italian mother in this country for a short period not intending to live here, detained under mental health act, court of protection gave a declaration that surgeons could perform a ceasarean section on her, she knew nothing about it, child removed from her care immediately afterwards, placement order made in February 2013. Readers must supply their own outrage]
This particular aspect was the application by Essex County Council for a Reporting Restriction Order. That was heard by Mr Justice Charles, a High Court judge. At the time there was speculation that the RRO (an order which prevents the Press from publishing certain bits of information) was aimed at stopping the publication of photographs of the mother/baby, these having been linked to by various websites and on Twitter.
As one can see from the judgment
9. Subject to the following paragraph, this order binds all persons and all companies or unincorporated bodies (whether acting by their directors, employees or in any other way) who know that the order has been made.
(Note that you don’t have to be aware of the exact contents, or to have been served with it to be bound by it, you just have to know that a Reporting Restriction Order was made – the onus is on you, if you want to write about the case to find out from the RRO what is okay to say and what is not)
In practice, the public debate is not stifled at all – one doesn’t need to say what the child’s name is, or the address she is living at to discuss the wider implications. Some of my readers should also note that the RRO is potentially binding on people outside of the UK (such as Monaco) but only if the RRO was actually served upon them. [This is the “following paragraph” referred to in para 9 above]
10. In respect of persons outside England and Wales:
(i) Except as provided in sub-paragraph (ii) below, the terms of this order do not affect or concern anyone outside the jurisdiction of this court.
(ii) The terms of this order will bind the following persons in a country, territory or state outside the jurisdiction of this court:-
(a) the first and second respondents or their agents;
(b) any person who is subject to the jurisdiction of this court;
(c) any person who has been given written notice of this order at his residence or place of business within the jurisdiction of this court; and
(d) any person who is able to prevent acts or omissions outside the jurisdiction of this court which constitute or assist in a breach of the terms of this order;
(e) any other person, only to the extent that this order is declared enforceable by or is enforced by a court in that country or state.
I should also indicate that I have been told that the Italian Government or State has instructed solicitors and it may be that it would wish to take advantage of that permission to apply to vary or discharge equally any media organisation or other person affected by the injunctive relief can take advantage of that, as of course can the mother and the father, they not having been served as yet with the process
[The interesting thing remaining in this case, is of course, that the judgment which authorised Essex to remove the baby from the mother, which was given either on the day of birth or the next day, has not been published.
What we know about this is that there was (a) certainly a suggestion from the hospital that there was an option that might have kept mother and baby together in a hospital ward and (b) Mostyn J had originally indicated that he would hear the case but then released it to a District Judge. There may be something sinister and suspicious and dreadful about the delay in publishing this judgment, it might just be that the District Judge is on holiday – it can’t be published until he/she approves it. It probably isn’t too much of a stretch that there is a District Judge presently wishing that they had just let Mostyn J deal with it, as people are going to dissect every single line of that judgment when it is published]