Judge blasts council's 'unjustified' attempts to suppress story
Bristol Council 'emboldened by the Leveson inquiry to try it on'.
Newspaper in two-month legal battle
A top judge has warned the family justice system is failing to address freedom of speech considerations after overturning a “shocking” injunction banning The Sun from revealing how a four-year-old girl was left in foster care with a man accused of downloading child porn.
The High Court gag meant The Sun was unable to report that the young girl had been left with the unnamed man for two weeks after social workers learned of the suspicions.
It was only able to publish today’s story after a two-month legal battle, hailing yesterday’s decision to overturn the injunction order by Mr Justice Baker as a victory for freedom of speech.
Justice Baker ruled that that it was “in the public interest for these matters to be published” and that Bristol City Council was “unjustified” in its attempts to suppress the story.
“There is a clear public interest in facilitating an open discussion of the issues relating to child protection and fostering that arise in this case,” he said.
“There is a danger that those who practise in the family justice system fail to give proper consideration to the rights of the media.
“This must now cease. The media are undoubtedly and rightly aggrieved by this practice.”
The Sun suggested that Bristol City Council felt “emboldened by the Leveson inquiry to try it on”.
According to the paper, a Family Proceedings Court was told that the girl had been living with the foster carer for three months before police told social services he was suspected of downloading child abuse images.
Social workers reportedly waited six days before deciding what to do and another week before removing the girl and another child from the foster dad, who committed suicide a day later.
In an opinion piece this morning The Sun said:
The failure by social workers to protect a girl of four from potential abuse was bad enough.
But who at Bristol City Council then thought it best to gag The Sun from exposing the scandal using a sneaky injunction it took us two months of battling to overturn?
Publishing the story, and the council’s role in it, was always 100 per cent in the public interest.
As it always is when a local authority is found to have failed the children in its care.
The story would identify no one bar the social workers who dragged their heels in following up concerns about the vulnerable girl.
High Court judge Mr Justice Baker clearly couldn’t believe the council’s arrogant stupidity any more than we could.
It is hard to know what possessed the council to instruct its lawyers to try to keep a lid on the story.
We can’t help wondering if they, and all those who serve the public but would prefer their shameful failures kept quiet, now feel emboldened by the Leveson inquiry to try it on.
Thank God for a few judges with common sense.