I wrote yesterday about the murkiness and lack of clarity of what a parent can or can’t say post proceedings, particularly in a case where they were successful and the Court found that the LA had treated them badly.
And most, if not all, of the control of that was pinned on the “Rubric”, the preamble wording under which the Judge releases an anonymised transcript.
Well, lo and behold, here is another one, in the case of Re E (A Child) 2013 (which is a really absorbing case, and I will come back to it, but it will take a while to fully absorb)
This judgment is being distributed on the strict understanding that in any report no person other than the advocates or the solicitors instructing them (and other persons identified by name in the judgment itself) may be identified by name or location and that in particular the anonymity of the children and the adult members of the family must be strictly preserved.
This does not prevent the parents from identifying themselves and the child in the event that they wish to discuss and/or publicise what has happened to them and their family in the course of these proceedings and beforehand.
Now, I am both a lawyer, and a pedantic git, and a lover of labyrinthine legal language, but I have to confess that as a result of those two paragraphs, I would not be certain whether the parents definitely could go on This Morning to talk about their experiences in this case using their real names.
It seems to me that the second paragraph says that they can (in fact, I am fairly sure it does, but fairly sure isn’t great when you are wondering whether what you are about to do is or isn’t a contempt of court), and the second paragraph specifically says that nothing in the first paragraph prevents it, but now I don’t see the point of the first paragraph.
Does the first paragraph (in light of the second) mean nothing more than “nobody else can OUT these parents, but if they choose to OUT THEMSELVES, they can” ? Or does it in effect mean nothing more than “You can publish this transcript of judgment, but you can’t publish it in a way that takes out all the “E” “M” and “F” and replaces those with the real names?”
Or something else entirely?
My gut feeling is that the family, much as with the Websters, are probably permitted by the rubric to publicise the facts of their case, using their own names, if they so wish.
Having said that, whilst the paragraphs suggest that the parents can go onto This Morning and name themselves and the child and talk about the case, paragraph one looks to me like it still bites on the producers of “This Morning” or the editor of the newspaper deciding whether to actually publish the interview in which they do it. Paragraph 2 doesn’t permit the producers or editors to ignore para 1. I don’t think that can be what was intended, but again, if I were being asked by the producers of This Morning whether they were good to go on running the peace, I’d have to say that I think they are okay, if the parents themselves identify their names, but I’m not sure. I definitely wouldn’t put up a caption of the parents names or introduce them – the parents would have to say their own names before Pip and Holly use them.
[For the avoidance of doubt, my own view would be that they SHOULD be able to do this – where the child is as young as this, and they were exonerated of all allegations of harm and there are important lessons for professionals to learn, they should. Only by doing that will a case of this kind, where “Child rescue” overrode “Family Preservation” get the same sort of media attention as say the Daniel Pelka case where things may have gone wrong in the other direction. If we only get media reporting of the State failing to act, and not of the negative consequences of the State taking action, the debate and policy arising from the debate can be badly skewed]