The right to share - to a certain extent

 

Just how far should the right to tell your story extend when minors are involved? Mr Justice Munby has recently offered guidance on limitations that may appropriately be employed in the case of Re Roddy (a child) [2004] All ER (D) 150 (Feb).

The case centred on a girl who became pregnant aged 12. The father was of a similar age. The local authority began care proceedings in relation to the mother and, after the birth, the child. A series of injunctions was granted to protect their identities.

A few years later, on the mother’s application, the care order relating to her was discharged. The mother then approached a national newspaper with the intention of sharing her experiences in the care system. Consequently, the newspaper’s solicitors contacted the local authority giving notice of their client’s intention to apply for a variation of the injunction. The local authority raised concerns in relation to the identification of the child.

The court had to consider the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – not only that of the press and of readers, but also the right of the mother to tell her story.

Additionally, the court noted that the right to privacy enshrined in Article 8 of the Convention embraced not only maintenance of privacy, but also the right to share one’s otherwise private history with others. It was the court’s responsibility and duty to defend the right of a child (the mother), who had sufficient understanding to make an informed decision, to make her own choice.

However, an injunction would be granted to preserve her child’s anonymity. In the case of the father, the balance also required preservation of his anonymity, but not prevention of his story being told anonymously.

Therefore this case illustrates the balance that must be struck between the freedom to tell one’s story, the freedom of the press to publish it and, naturally, the protection of children.

Ruth Moss is a lawyer in the technology, media and communications department at Lovells

Ruth Moss

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