Judge argues ‘transparency’ outweighs risk in naming council in child protection cases

A family court judge has spelled out why councils should be named in rulings on cases involving applications for children to be taken from the care of their parents.

Judge Paul Middleton-Roy said councils are public bodies with a statutory responsibility for the welfare and protection of children.

He says the need for a public body to be identified when acting in respect of “citizens” is important.

The judge, who oversees family court hearings in Chelmsford, Essex, has outlined his thoughts in a ruling on a case in which he concluded that two children should be taken from their mother and placed into long-term foster care.

He has not named the children, who are two and eight.

But he has named the local authority involved, Hertfordshire County Council (pictured), even though he said publication of the council’s name might result in the creation of an information jigsaw which could lead to the children’s identities being revealed.

He said “transparency of justice” outweighs any risk of the children being identified.

“The local authority is identified by name, the local authority being a public body with a statutory responsibility for the welfare and protection of children and support of families,” said Judge Middleton-Roy in his ruling.

“Where that work has resulted in court proceedings, the local authority is held accountable for its actions with families by the court.

“The need for a public body to be identified when acting in respect of citizens is important.”

He added: “The court concludes that naming the local authority would carry with it some risk of identifying the children.

“Nevertheless, having balanced the risks between transparency of justice on behalf of the state where life-changing decisions are made for children, and ensuring their privacy, welfare and safeguarding needs are taken seriously and protected, the court concludes that the public interest in identifying the applicant local authority is so important that it outweighs any risk of identification of the children.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Google Maps.

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