SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This new guidance, which was added to the procedures in March 2018, summarises the law around publicity when children are subject to care or adoption proceedings in the Family Court. As a general rule Children's Social Care staff cannot talk about or publish any information about care proceedings; this is important to prevent children from being identified and details about their family becoming widely known. Where a child is the subject of care/adoption proceedings, staff must not agree to anything being published that will identify the child without permission of the Court, this would include requests for publicity from the Police when a child in proceedings goes missing.
This chapter was added to the manual in March 2018.
Whilst there is a greater move towards transparency in the Family Court, there are significant limitations on what can and cannot be said about care/adoption proceedings outside of the Court arena. As a general rule you cannot talk about or publish any information about care proceedings. This is to prevent children being identified and details about their families becoming widely known. Any information in the public domain CANNOT directly or indirectly cause the child to be identifiable.
2. Relevant Law
Section 97 (2) Children Act 1989:
No person shall publish any material which is intended or likely to identify any child as being involved in any proceedings before the Family Court (Children Act 1989 proceedings or Adoption and Children Act 2002 proceedings).
Breach of this section could mean that a criminal offence has been committed.
The Court may dispense with the requirement of section 97 (2) if the welfare of the child requires it.
Section 12 Administration of Justice Act 1960: Publication of information relating to proceedings in private
The publication of information relating to proceedings before any court sitting in private shall not of itself be contempt of court except in the following cases [Note the Act goes further but the following is relevant for this guidance]:
- Where the proceedings relate to the exercise of the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court with respect to minors; where the proceedings are brought under the Children Act 1989 or the Adoption and Children Act 2002.
Essentially you are in contempt of court if you publish information relating to proceedings involving a child in the Family Court.
As a general rule where a child is the subject of care/adoption proceedings, you must not agree to anything being published that will identify the child without permission of the Court, this would include requests for publicity from the Police when a child in proceedings goes missing.
If in doubt, seek legal advice before taking any action that could potentially put the Authority in breach of the law.