(Family Division, Hayden J, 21 October 2016)
Publicity and reporting – Public law children – Gender identity – Local authority sought reporting restriction – Whether the mother should be preventing from speaking in the press about gender issues
A reporting restriction order was granted, inter alia, preventing the mother from speaking to the press about gender issues in a manner that was likely to lead to the child’s identification.
Following the judgment in Re J (A Minor)  EWHC 2430 (Fam) the local authority applied for a reporting restriction order. It asserted that to avoid jigsaw identification the judgment should be anonymised including the names of family members, professionals, legal representatives and the circuit judge who heard the private law proceedings. The father was opposed to the release of the judgment and sought only a summary to be placed in the public domain. The mother had sought to talk to the press about the case.
It was clear that the professional deficiencies in the management of the case were matters of public interest. Of further interest were the emotional harm suffered by the child and the alienation of the father.
On the facts of this case the experts, none of whom sought to have their names withheld, should be named. Analysing risk of identification and proportionality of restriction the court came to the clear conclusion that both the Cafcass officers and the social workers should be named. On the issue of naming the local authority the balance was a delicate one. The facts of the case were so striking that the identification of the geographical area in which the child lived would, far more readily in this case than in others, risked his identification becoming known. The local authority name would not be released.
In the circumstances of this case the mother’s rights under Art 10 of the European Convention to speak about her son in the media should be restricted. It was likely that the mother would advance her alternative view of the case which would risk misrepresenting the child’s identity to the world. That would risk his privacy and his emotional wellbeing. The order would prevent her from discussing any aspect of gender dysphoria or gender identification insofar as they related to the child. For the avoidance of doubt the restriction extended to prohibiting the mother from broadcasting or publishing any detail of his life which might identify him as the child subject to these proceedings.