Significant Judgments

1. Italian Baby P – Essex Council – the famous ‘womb scandal’ – 17 December 2013

Para 35:

The public has an interest in knowing and discussing what has been done in this case, both in the Court of Protection and in the Chelmsford County Court. Given the circumstances of the case and the extreme gravity of the issues which here confronted the courts – whether to order an involuntary caesarean section and whether to place a child for adoption despite the protests of the mother – it is hard to imagine a case which more obviously and compellingly requires that public debate be free and unrestricted.

Para 36:

The mother has an equally obvious and compelling claim to be allowed to tell her story to the world. I repeat what I have on previous occasions (see most recently Re J, para 36) about the importance in a free society of parents who feel aggrieved at their experiences of the family justice system being able to express their views publicly about what they conceive to be failings on the part of individual judges or failings in the judicial system and likewise being able to criticise local authorities and others. I repeat what I said last week (Re P [2013] EWHC 4037 (Fam), para 4)

If ever there was a case in which that right should not be curtailed it is surely this case. To deny this mother in the circumstances of this case the right to speak out – and, I emphasise, to speak out, if this is her wish, using her own name and displaying her own image – would be affront not merely to the law but also, surely, to any remotely acceptable concept of human dignity and, indeed, humanity itself.

Para 45:

This case must surely stand as final, stark and irrefutable demonstration of the pressing need for radical changes in the way in which both the family courts and the Court of Protection approach what for shorthand I will refer to as transparency. We simply cannot go on as hitherto. Many more judgments must be published. And, as this case so very clearly demonstrates, that applies not merely to the judgments of High Court Judges; it applies also to the judgments of Circuit Judges.

2. Baby J judgment – 05 September 2013

Para 1:

The case also raises important questions about how the court should adapt its practice to the realities of the internet, and in particular social media. For these reasons I am giving this judgement in open court.

3. Unborn baby M R judgment – 15 April 2003

Para 44 ii)

The removal of a child from his mother at or shortly after birth is a draconian and extremely harsh measure which demands “extraordinarily compelling” justification. The fullest possible information must be given to the court. The evidence in support of the application for such an order must be full, detailed, precise and compelling. Unparticularised generalities will not suffice. The sources of hearsay evidence must be identified. Expressions of opinion must be supported by detailed evidence and properly articulated reasoning.

4. This judgment

relates to a 12-year-old Slovak boy and is the ‘template’ for foreign children, at least from the European Union, relating to these three issues:

(i) Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility regulation, commonly known as Brussels II revised (BIIR),

(ii) Articles 36 and 37 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 24 April 1963, and

(iii) the jurisprudence on reporting restriction orders which I recently considered in Re J (A Child) [2013] EWHC 2694 (Fam) and again in Re P (A Child) [2013] EWHC 4048 (Fam).

5. This Supreme Court judgment dismissed an appeal by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council in 2013.

Lady Hale says in her first sentence:

In a free society, it is a serious thing indeed for the state compulsorily to remove a child from his family of birth.

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