Social Care

November 2nd, 2016

In Rotherham MBC v M and others (2016) EWHC 2660 (Fam) Cobb J held that it was appropriate to make a reporting restriction order sought by the Council and the Police preventing the identification not only of a very vulnerable teenage girl who was at risk of sexual exploitation but also of four adult males who had associated with her, but against whom no findings of sexual exploitation had been made. This was because naming these males risked “jigsaw identification” to the vulnerable girl.  Cobb J concluded:-

“45.    As I have indicated earlier in this judgment, there is a significant public interest in the investigation and detection of child sexual exploitation, in the state’s protection of its victims, and in the prosecution of those who perpetrate it. There is national public interest in the incidence (indeed the prevalence) of this crime in the area of Rotherham. For this reason, I decided that it would be right to hold the final hearing of these applications in public, and to name the relevant council. I have no doubt that the media have an important part to play in raising public awareness of this particular type of offence, and in reporting on the court’s approach to it.

46.    It is rightly uncontroversial in this case that Child G’s identity should be protected now and for the future. She is an extremely vulnerable young person; it would be devastating to her to be named publicly in the press as the subject of this application, and a strong deterrent to other young people who may consider coming forward to report offending of this type. Having listened carefully to the evidence of the relevant senior officers, I am satisfied that if I named the associated males, Child G would be quickly identified in the local community in which she lives. That is sufficient on its own to justify the anonymity of the four males. However, quite apart from that factor, I have reached the firm conclusion that there is no true public interest in naming the four associated males, against whom, in the end, no findings have been sought or made. The Article 8 rights of the associated males would be in my judgment significantly violated were they to be publicly exposed in the media as having been implicated to a greater or lesser degree, but not proved to be engaged, in this type of offending. Their rights, on these facts, predominate over the Article 10 rights of the press to report their names while not inhibiting the press from reporting more widely about this case. I have cross-checked these conclusions against the measure of proportionality and have unhesitatingly concluded that no lesser order will suffice; the injunction will therefore extend for their lives until or unless earlier varied or discharged.”

 

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