Transparency in the Family Courts: Media secures open justice win in Poppi Worthington case

Later this month there will be a Family Court hearing arising from the death of a 13-month-old baby, Poppi Worthington, in December 2012.   There has been no effective Coroner’s inquest into her death (an earlier inquest was unlawful and the Divisional Court has ordered a fresh inquest: [2015] EWHC 2465 (Admin)) and there have been no resulting criminal proceedings.  There is a reporting restriction order in place which limits what the media can report, and what the public can know, about the case and the circumstances of her death.

 

The High Court has now ruled that “the time has come for as much information as possible about the circumstances of Poppi's death to be placed in the public domain”.  Mr Justice Peter Jackson has ruled that, “effect can... now be given to the extremely strong public interest in the availability of information about the death of a child in troubling circumstances, and about the manner in which it has been investigated.”   His earlier fact-finding judgment in the case, dated March 2014, will be published on 23 November 2015 with some redactions; accredited media representatives may attend the Family Court hearing and they will have access to confidential background documents in order to make the proceedings comprehensible to them; contemporaneous reporting of the proceedings will be permitted; and the resulting judgment will be public.

 

Barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher and solicitor Oliver Murphy, RPC, acted for the media in these proceedings.  They represented eight media organisations: Guardian News and Media Ltd., Associated Newspapers Ltd., the BBC, CN Group, Independent Print Ltd., the Press Association, Telegraph Media Group and Times Newspapers Ltd. 

 

The judgment has been published: F v. Cumbria County Council and Others: Publicity (No. 6) [2015] EWHC 3228 (Fam).  It is available here.

 

This judgment has been widely reported, including by the Daily MailTimes, the Telegraph and the Lancashire Evening Post.

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