Court Reporting: Child ‘not concerned in proceedings’ can be named

The Press Association successfully challenged a court order that – using the discretionary powers of Section 39 of the Childrens and Young Persons Act 1933 – prevented journalists from naming the child of a mother who was convicted for child neglect.

Rebecca Ireland had gone on a drink and drunk binge in April last year before ending up in bed with her six week old daughter. She awoke to find her daughter face down and dead next to her. While experts could not agree whether she had died from suffocation or cot death but irrespective of this, Ireland had been charged and convicted of neglect. The judge at Preston Crown Court had originally used his discretionary power under Section 39 to prevent publication of the surviving sibling’s name but this was successfully challenged by PA legal editor Mike Dodd.

Under Section 39 there is no power to name as the subject of a s39 Order someone who is not a victim, witness or defendant. As the surviving child in this case was not a victim, witness or defendant they could not bee deemed ‘concerned’ in the proceedings. This was a good technical point for Dodd to argue to allow reporting of this case but the question remains over whether there should be protection from identification for children and other vulnerable people who while not ‘concerned’ with proceedings may be affected by them or by being identified in relation to the reporting of proceedings. If the surviving child was placed into care as a result of these proceedings then one could argue that such care order was ancillary to or arose out of these proceedings and as such Section 39 could extend to them IF the interpretation of being ‘concerned’ were deemed to intend such extension. If not then it would be down to the finer points of the child’s right to privacy over their personal life BUT this, being only indirectly engaged via Human Rights laws is not proactive and so would not provide protection unless a guardian were to bring and successfully be able to argue an action based on the court’s failure – as a public body bound by the UK Human Rights Act 1998– to uphold the child’s right to privacy under Art 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

See: Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts – Judicial Studies Board and Newspaper Society joint publication October 2009 pp16/17
Further report on the case.

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