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.

Another court hearing followed at which she was again found guilty of contempt of court on several counts. There was an additional six month sentence again, suspended for a year. The woman was told that any further breaches of the court order would mean she would be sent to prison. The Court further added a reporting restriction to prevent any disclosure of children’s identity by anyone including their mother.