UK: Mother who published confidential family court papers on Facebook charged with contempt of court
From the Chronicle & Echo:
A mother who published confidential details of her family court proceedings through a Facebook blog found herself charged with contempt of court.
When two of her children were removed from her care following a ruling by Judge Stephen Waine in August, she used her Facebook profile to rail against that decision by publishing the judgement and inviting 15 friends to comment.
She also criticised the judge and the children’s guardian, appointed to protect their interests. By revealing confidential details, and the identities of her children and their guardian, she breached the Administration of Justice Act 1960 and found herself in contempt of court and at risk of being jailed over Christmas.
The mother-of-four cannot be identified in the Chronicle & Echo to protect her children, under the same rules she ignored by posting eight blogs between August 30 and September 10.
Finding her in contempt of court, Judge Waine said: “I can readily understand it was a somewhat limited number of people and a limited number invited to access it. But the problem I can see from a series of Facebook entries is that … they would be in a position of passing it on to anyone. Once they got to see it, she loses all control of it beyond that invited individual. I have to take the view that this matter is extremely serious and a prison sentence is absolutely inevitable. This is an increasingly common problem and needs to be stamped out.
Read more on Chronicle & Echo.
Wouldn’t the same be true if she hadn’t posted them to Facebook but just disseminated copies to friends offline? The only difference I see is that maybe the court would not have found out – or not found out as quickly.
But this gets us back to an issue we were discussing in #privchat on Twitter yesterday: does the woman have a right to talk about her life to her friends that is trumped by the Administration of Justice Act? It would seem so, and the privacy of the children is clearly an issue. But the identities of her children would already be known to her friends and some of the details of the case might already have been shared before the court case. Would a more limited prohibition have been more reasonable and appropriate?
Imagine feeling terribly distraught about a court decision but being told you couldn’t talk to your friends about it. Could you refrain?
I can appreciate the court’s concern to protect the children. I just wonder if the law sometimes makes inhumane and almost impossible demands on people.
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