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Judge considers journalist's request to see evidence in family court case

A freelance journalist has asked to see a file of evidence relating to a seven-year-old girl who was at the centre of private family court proceedings.

Melanie Newman wants a High Court judge to allow her to examine documents produced by council social services staff.

Mrs Justice Roberts is considering her application at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

Journalists covering private family court hearings are not normally given access to such material and Newman’s application is thought to be the first of its kind.

The judge is expected to publish a ruling next month at the earliest.

Social services bosses at Southampton City Council had raised concerns about the girl’s care. The case was initially considered by a family court judge in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

Court of Appeal judges have also overseen hearings and three written rulings have been published online.

Newman, who previously worked at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, says she hopes to write an “in-depth report” on the case.

She says the published rulings “alone” do not provide “sufficient insight” into the case to allow her to write an in-depth report.

Newman only wants to be allowed to read documentation.

She would need to make a further application if she wanted to report any of the material in the file.

Mrs Justice Roberts says journalists can report the hearing she is overseeing but must not identify the family at the centre of the case.

Picture: Reuters/Peter Nicholls

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