Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Court of Protection extends reporting restriction order following 'prurient' media coverage

Court of Protection extends reporting restriction order following 'prurient' media coverage


Mr Justice Charles's judgment extends order to cover the coroner's court and any inquest

The vice-president of the Court of Protection has ruled that the woman known as 'C', who died on 28 November 2015, cannot be named until further order of the court.

In an unusual move, Mr Justice Charles's ruling will also extend to cover the coroner's court, and so apply to any inquest that is held.

In November 2015, Mr Justice MacDonald found that C had capacity to decide whether to refuse life-saving treatment for kidney failure. C refused that treatment, and died on 28 November 2015.

Two days later, MacDonald's J judgment was handed down, the contents of which created intense and intrusive media interest.

The latest ruling of Charles J, the vice-president of the court, follows a hearing on 2 December 2015, at which Mrs Justice Theis ruled that the reporting restriction order previously made, and which had lapsed on C's death, should be extended for a further 7 days.

At the hearing of 9 December 2015, the media sought to argue that they should be allowed to name C on the basis that her children had no article 8 rights, or, in the alternative, that the potential interference with their rights was insufficiently serious to outweigh rival free speech arguments.

Media outlets also argued that the evidence filed on behalf of C's family did not demonstrate that distress had already been caused or that they would suffer further harm were C to be named.

The court's vice-president said he 'struggled' to see how naming C was in the public interest. However, he gave the media the opportunity to submit evidence on that point.

Charles J also acceded to a request that they be allowed to provide a response to the criticisms made of a Daily Mail journalist who had visited the home of C's youngest daughter four days after her death.

Seven weeks later, the media advised that they no longer sought to name C, and recognised that her family's right to privacy outweighed article 10 considerations.

However, no evidence was provided as to how naming C was in the public interest, and no response was provided to the criticisms made of the Daily Mail journalist. The media also asked that reporting restrictions only be extended to the 18th birthday of C's youngest daughter.

Giving judgment, Charles J accepted both that the order should last until further ordered, and that it should cover the coroner's court. He also described the media reporting as 'prurient'.

Laura Hobey-Hamsher, a solicitor at Bindmans who represented C's family, said the ruling rightly recognised that there was no public interest in 'C' or her family being named.

'Mr Justice Charles was correct to do so: his description of much of the reporting to date as "prurient" is right, as is his view that the additional distress caused to C's family by the manner and tenor of much of the reporting should have been obvious to anyone with any compassion.

'The real sadness in this case is that many media outlets demonstrated no such compassion, or even basic humanity, at any stage, either in their reporting following C's death or during the subsequent court proceedings. It is hoped that the orders of Mr Justice Charles will be respected, and C's family allowed to grieve for C on their own terms without any further intrusive and uncalled for media attention.'

Also responding to the ruling, a relative of the family expressed relief at the facts and the tenor of the judgment.

'It seemed self-evident to the family and those near to them that the naming of their deceased mother in the press could do nothing but pile untold hurt on top of the grief already being deeply felt by the girls particularly given the "so-called" anonymised reporting that had taken place prior to the hearing on 9 December 2015.

'The family is extremely grateful to the court that common decency and compassion have prevailed and that there should be no further intrusions into the privacy of these three sisters as they try to come to terms with a life without their mother.'