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Campaigning Mother Punished for Publicising Care Proceedings

It is hardly surprising that parents whose children are taken into care often feel that an injustice has been done and might wish to tell the world about it. However, as one High Court case showed, freedom of expression rights are not limitless and the welfare of the children concerned is always uppermost in the minds of judges.

The case concerned a mother who had had two children taken from her and placed in foster care. She blamed her local authority and family judges for what she viewed as the children’s wrongful removal and mounted a campaign to publicise her case. She caused distress to her children by distributing court papers relating to the care proceedings in the vicinity of their foster placements and, after the local authority launched proceedings, a judge ordered her to desist.

Her defiance of that order later resulted in findings of contempt of court against her and a six-month suspended prison sentence. A further order was made, forbidding her from publicly revealing details of the case, but she continued to use the Internet to further her campaign. Amongst other things, she posted a recording on Facebook in which she revealed the names and dates of birth of the children and the name and address of one of their foster carers.

Following a further hearing, she was again found to have committed several acts of contempt and received another six-month sentence, suspended for 12 months. The Court warned her that any repetition of her conduct was likely to be visited by an immediate sentence of imprisonment. A reporting restriction was imposed that forbade her, or anyone else, from revealing the identity of the children.



 
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