High Court forbids naming children in benefit fraud case

Children holding handsThe High Court has forbidden the naming of four children whose mother had been accused of benefit fraud.

In Z & Others v News Group Newspapers, the mother of eight was set to appear in court facing charges that she had exaggerated and made untrue claims about her children over a ten year period in order to claim hundreds of thousands of pounds in  Disability Living Allowance, Carer’s Allowance and other benefits..

As the case would inevitably involve detailed discussions of the children’s medical history, a reporting restriction was made under section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, forbidding the media from identifying her four younger children.

News Group Newspapers applied for the order to be lifted and were successful. A court concluded that the children were in fact not covered by section 39 of the 1933 act. The father than applied to Family Division of the High Court for a fresh order forbidding identification of the children.

Mr Justice Cobb noted that there were:

“… powerful considerations on both sides of the debate”.

He contrasted the welfare of the children with an intense and “legitimate” interest in knowing the details of an “alleged fraud upon the State”, especially a major one at a time when public concern about the issue was high.

However, the children faced the prospect of a major invasion of their privacy, including their medical histories. One child in particular was in a “fragile emotional state”.

The judge concluded that the children’s rights to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights meant their identities needed to be protected. However, he noted that the situation could change if the mother was convicted of the fraud.

“The spotlight, currently focused on the children, their alleged disabilities, and medical records, will have diffused. A wider perspective of offending will be in view. The public interest in knowing about proven serious fraud upon the State is likely to outweigh the protection which the Article 8 rights currently offer the children who were the vehicles of that fraud.”

Photo by JosephB via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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