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The Right To Privacy And Freedom Of Expression: The Balancing Act In Re K

In the recent case of Re K (A Child: Wardship: Publicity) [2013] EWHC B11 the High Court granted parents permission to discuss the case of their adoptive daughter (K) with the media, subject to certain conditions to preserve K’s anonymity. The case concerned a young person who had been made a ward of the Court. A number of issues had arisen since K became a ward of the Court, one of which was the parents’ wish to be able to discuss her case with the media. The parents applied for the discharge of an order preventing them doing so. They advanced a number of reasons in support of their application:

1. They wished to raise awareness of the impact of Reactive Attachment Disorder (‘RAD’), a severe and relatively uncommon disorder which can affect children;

2. They wished to discuss their experiences of working with the local authority, Coventry City Council, and whether there were any ways in which the local authority could have achieved better outcomes for K;

3. They wanted to take part in a public debate concerning adoption and the need for greater transparency in the family courts.

The local authority opposed the application and raised concerns about the likely adverse impact publicity would have upon K. The High Court considered the competing interests protected by Article 8 (right to privacy) and Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Judge held that K’s right to respect for her private life did not self-evidently justify interfering with, or restricting, the parents right to be able to tell their story or the media’s right to publish their story. The parents Article 10 rights were also important. This case is a useful reminder that publication of private information may be justified under freedom of expression where there is a contribution to a debate of general interest, in this case a debate about delays and difficulties with adoption. Please contact Rachel Brown, Solicitor in Druces LLP’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution team, if you require any further information on the impact of this decision.

This note does not constitute legal advice. It is general guidance only and is based on the law as at 16 September 2013.

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