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Access to court documents in the Family Court: whose privacy rights prevail?

Date:30 SEP 2020

In Newman v Southampton City Council Melanie Newman a freelance journalist applied to the High Court to view documents relating to care proceedings which had concluded in 2018. Those proceedings concerned a child M who was removed from her mother’s care by the local authority when two years of age following two instances where her mother had (in the court’s initial view) administered an EpiPen unnecessarily. M was made subject to a care order and a year later to a placement order for adoption. The girl’s mother appealed and the Court of Appeal overturned the placement order. M was returned to her mother’s care after more than three years in foster care. The Court of Appeal observed that the decision to remove M from her mother had been made on “the slimmest of evidence”.

The application

Ms Newman became interested in the case following the Court of Appeal decision. She applied for permission to view (not publish) the majority of the court file and material which had informed the earlier decision-making of the local authority and the court. She had a long-standing interest in the...

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