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REPORTING RESTRICTIONS: Bristol City Council v News Group Newspapers LTD and Others [2012] EWHC 3748 (Fam)

Date:16 JAN 2013
Law Reporter

(Family Division, Baker J, 21 December 2012)

Care proceedings were taken in relation to a 5-year-old girl due to concerns of domestic violence perpetrated by the father upon the mother who was considered to be vulnerable. The child had lived in a succession of foster homes under interim care orders. Her current placement was with two adults and another foster child.

During proceedings new evidence emerged that while the girl was living in the current foster placement the local authority received information from the police that one of the adults at the placement had been accessing child pornography 2 years earlier. The child had also claimed that the other foster child living at the address had strangled her and the father noted red marks on her neck.

The child was seen by the social worker on the following day but no injuries were observed. A medical examination was not ordered and it was considered there was insufficient information to remove the child from the placement at that stage.

In response to the child pornography allegations it was agreed that the police would visit the placement and seize all computers in the home. The day after this took place the foster carer committed suicide.

A care order was made and a number of failures to follow child protection procedures were noted and deemed significant enough for a full investigation. They included the failure by the local authority to take the child's allegation of assault seriously and have her medically examined and the failure to remove the child from the placement for 2 weeks after the information regarding child pornography was received. The father notified The Sun newspaper of his concerns and a journalist attended the hearing but in the interim a reporting restriction order was granted. NGN Ltd sought permission to publish information about the case.

All details concerning the child and her family would be subject to the reporting restriction order as would the nature of the relationships between the people living at the foster placement. However, the judge found there was a clear public interest in naming the local authority, the social worker and team manager involved and there would not be an increased risk in the identity of the child being discovered.