News International wins reporting rights in care case
A five year-old girl who was placed in foster care after concerns were raised about possible domestic violence perpetrated by the father against the mother. She lived in a series of foster homes under temporary care orders. Her most recent placement was with two adults and another foster child.
While the girl lived in this household , the police told the local authority that one of the two foster carers had downloaded child pornography two years earlier and they agreed that the police should visit the house. Officers seized all computers in the home. The following day the adult who had accessed child pornography committed suicide.
Around the same time, the girl complained that the second foster child in the house had tried to strangle her, and her father reported seeing red marks on her neck. She was examined by a social worker but no further action was taken and she was left in the foster placement.
A full care order was then made and the authority launched a full investigation into the case, saying child protection procedures had not been followed on a number of occasions. Social workers had not taken the child’s claim to have been strangled seriously and had not ordered a medical examination. They had left her in the placement for a full two weeks after the police informed the authority that one of the foster carers had downloaded child pornography.
The girl’s father alerted the Sun newspaper about the case and a journalist attended hearings, but reporting restrictions were then imposed. News Group Newspapers applied for the restrictions to be lifted so they could write about the case.
The judge ruled that all details concerning the child and her family were to remain confidential, as was any information on the relationships between the adults at the foster placement. However, there was a public interest in naming the local authority and social workers involved.
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Marilyn Stowe is the senior partner in Stowe Family Law, which has offices in Yorkshire, Cheshire and London. With more than 30 years’ experience handling divorce cases and family law proceedings she is regarded as one of the most formidable and sought after divorce lawyers in the UK. In 2012, Marilyn became one of the first solicitors to qualify as a family law arbitrator.
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