A well known businessman, whose products are used by millions globally, was petitioned for divorce by his wife. Despite there being a public interest in the judgment, it was anonymised and redacted mainly to protect the privacy of the couple’s particularly vulnerable child, who would have been harmed by the publication of his family’s personal and financial affairs.
Although family court hearings are generally held in private, the judgments are usually reported. In this case, both the husband and the wife applied for the judgment to be anonymised and redacted on the grounds that if the details of their personal and financial lives were made public there would be serious interference with their private lives. The wife was particularly concerned that their child, who suffered from a complex health and developmental condition, would be identified and negatively impacted by the public and press attention.
It was held that there was a public interest in the judgment, which dealt with a number of issues that arise in financial remedy cases, including the treatment of nuptial agreements on divorce generally. However, that interest did not require the identification of the parties or other members of their family. The Honourable Mr Justice Baker stated:
‘It is certain that identification of the parties would cause some intrusion into the life of their son, and it is significantly likely that the intrusion would be on a scale that would cause harm to this vulnerable boy… balancing the competing rights in this case, and having regard to the importance of those rights and the reasons for interfering with them, the article 8 right to respect for private and family life enjoyed by the parties and their child outweighs the article 10 rights engaged in this case, and that it is proportionate for this court to make a reporting restrictions’.
The damage that the publication of court proceedings which relate to children can cause is acknowledged here, as is the importance of protecting children from harm. Arguably these principles apply equally in the criminal courts where there is a duty on all parties to protect the welfare of the children involved. In particular, where the impact of removing reporting restrictions and lifting anonymity for child defendants can have a considerable impact on the welfare of siblings and family members.