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Home > Judgments > 2010 archive

Wakefield MDC v The Media and others [2010] EWHC 262 (Fam)

Application by birth parents of adopted children to lift or vary injunctions preventing them from publicising what they consider were the injustices they had suffered.

The applicants' three children had been adopted at birth because of concerns over the parenting arising from the father's unusual personality and the mother's low intelligence. The first adoption occurred in 2005 at which time the parents approached the media to raise awareness of how they felt they had been unfairly treated. This resulted in publication of several articles, some including photographs of the new born baby with the birth parents. Accordingly the local authority successfully sought injunctions preventing the birth parents from seeking to publish the matter further. These injunctions had been respected by the applicants but they now sought to discharge them in order that the father could publish a book about their experiences.

In this judgment, Holman J notes that since there are no ongoing legal proceedings, the court may vary the restrictions imposed by s12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960. He then balances, following Re S, the position and rights of all the parties including those of the two sets of adoptive parents who had been informed of the application. He notes that the welfare of the children is of the highest importance but any restrictions should go no further than are actually necessary, justifiable and proportionate to protect the children and the Article 8 rights of them and their adoptive families.

He then goes on to make orders about what can be reported precluding such information as i) the age of the children, ii) identifiable pictures of the birth parents as the children may make the connection between themselves and the birth parents; iii) any live broadcast interview so as to prevent inadvertent disclosure; iv) any reference to gender. However he did not order immunity for the social workers and other professionals involved.

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Neutral citation no:  [2010] EWHC 262 (Fam)
Case No:  LS08C05659
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
FAMILY DIVISION
LEEDS DISTRICT REGISTRY
Sitting at BIRMINGHAM CIVIL JUSTICE CENTRE
The Priory Courts
33 Bull Street
Birmingham
B4 6DS

Date: 5th February 2010

Before:
MR JUSTICE HOLMAN

Between:
THE CITY OF WAKEFIELD METROPOLITAN DISTRICT COUNCIL (Applicants)

- V - 

THE MEDIA and OTHERS 
RE B, C, and D CHILDREN
(By the Children's Guardian) 
(Respondents)


Tape Transcription of Marten Walsh Cherer Ltd.,
1st Floor, Quality House, 6-9 Quality Court, Chancery Lane, London WC2A  1HP.
Telephone No: 020 7067 2900.  Fax No: 020 7831 6864

MR GUY SWIFFEN of counsel appeared on behalf of the City of Wakefield MDC.
MISS LYNN McFADYEN of counsel appeared on behalf of the birth father.
MISS CATHERINE MASON of counsel appeared on behalf of the birth mother.
MR STEPHEN SWITALSKI of counsel appeared on behalf of the children's guardian.
(No representative appeared on behalf of the media or any publisher or broadcaster who had been served notice of these proceedings).

JUDGMENT

MR JUSTICE HOLMAN:
1. The issue and dilemma in this case is the balance between the private rights and welfare of certain adopted children and their adoptive families, and the right to freedom of expression of the children's birth parents and the media. 

2. Because of the need for anonymity, I will use initials which are not the true initials of anyone concerned. I will call Mr 'A' the birth father and Mrs 'A' the birth mother. He is much older that she is.  Despite the difference in their ages, they are and at all material times have been married to each other and they live together.  They have three living children, 'B', 'C' and 'D', who are now aged about six, four and three.  Each of these three children were removed from their mother within days of their birth and neither parent had any opportunity even to try to parent any of them. Ultimately, 'B' and 'C' were adopted together by one adoptive family and 'D' by another.  There is some communication between the two adoptive families and the three children occasionally meet.  The birth parents are not permitted to meet them and only receive very occasional and limited information about them. 

3. All the relevant decisions have been taken or approbated by court orders. In a sentence, the children were removed and adopted because it was considered that their birth parents could not parent them adequately due to a combination of the birth father's unusual personality and the mother's low intelligence. I wish to stress that the appropriateness of, and justification for, removing any of the children and their subsequent adoption does not arise for consideration by me and I do not express or imply any view one way or another about it. 

4. After the removal of the first child, 'B', the parents felt that they had been unjustly and unfairly treated.  They approached the press and media and in 2005 a number of articles and interviews were published about them, including photographs of themselves and 'B' as a new born baby.  Those articles referred to the parents and 'B' by their true names.  The day after 'C' was born a further article was published which described how 'C' (who was not actually named) was removed from the mother immediately after birth.  Again, the parents were named and depicted in a photograph.  So far as I am aware, the publicity was largely confined to the Wakefield area of Yorkshire which is not the area in which any of the children now live.

5. As a result, the local authority, the City of Wakefield Metropolitan District Council (Wakefield), obtained the first of a series of continuing injunctions which, in summary, forbid each birth parent from discussing, or otherwise communicating, or encouraging, or suggesting to any other person to publish "any matter relating to the care or family circumstances, including proceedings before any court" relating to the children, other than to certain very limited categories of person such as their legal advisors.  When, in due course, 'D' was born, an injunction was made in relation to 'D' as well.  The injunctions were, and are, directed to the birth parents personally and no injunction was ever sought or made against the media; but the birth parents have always obeyed and respected the injunctions with the result that, so far as I am aware, there has never been any further publicity since the making of the first injunction in July 2005. 

6. The injunctions were all made during the course of subsisting care or adoption proceedings in relation to the children, and it is clear from the terms of the supporting judgments that part of the reason for making or continuing the injunctions at that time was so as to remove (in the words of one judgment) "the glare of media publicity" while proceedings and the adoptive process were still underway.  But the injunctions are of indefinite duration and remain in full force and effect, even although all the children have now been fully and finally adopted and all proceedings have ended.

7. The birth parents continue to consider very strongly that they have been the victims of injustice and they applied in September 2008 for the injunctions to be discharged.  They made quite plain that they wished to publicise their stories in the media and, in the case of the birth father, to publish a book of their experiences.  At paragraph 6 of his statement dated 15th September 2008, Mr 'A' made his position very clear:

"I wish to be freed from the injunctions out against me currently.  I feel myself and my wife have been treated extremely unfairly during the course of these proceedings. I do not believe that due consideration has been given to our ability to parent the children and, although I have been advised there is no legal course open to me, I wish to bring the public's attention to what I see as a miscarriage of justice…  I wish to continue my fight and this would include, hopefully, publishing a book I am writing on the subject…  I feel that I should be allowed to continue my fight through the press as I believe it is an infringement of my human rights.  I am aware that there will be some things I will not be able to publish due to the privacy of the children, but I believe that the general details of my case and the situation myself and my wife have found ourselves in should be drawn to the public's attention."

8. At paragraph 4 of her statement dated 8th October 2008, the birth mother wrote:

"I do not feel that my husband and I were treated fairly during the care proceedings and I wish to bring this to the public's attention as I perceive the previous care proceedings to have been a miscarriage of justice.  I believe that the continued prevention of me disclosing the way we have been treated to the press is an infringement of my human rights.  Although there will be some details of the proceedings that cannot be disclosed due to the privacy of the children, I believe that the general details of the case and the situation my husband and I were subjected to is in the public's interests to be told."

9. It should be noted that in each of those passages each birth parent observed and apparently accepted that there would be some things or details which could not be published "due to the privacy of the children".

10. The applications to discharge the injunctions were listed for final hearing before me in Leeds on 29th October 2009. At that time, no-one had alerted either set of adoptive parents to the applications or contacted them to ascertain their views.  I gave a judgment sitting in private on 29th October 2009 which has been transcribed but which must not be made public since it contains names and other potentially identifying information which is deliberately excluded from the present judgment.  For a range of reasons which I gave in that judgment, I considered that I, or the court, could not appropriately consider these applications until the adoptive parents had been contacted and their views ascertained. In any event, the adoptive families would have to be informed if there was any variation or relaxation in the terms of the injunctions;  and plainly they had a right to convey their views to the court (and, indeed, to be represented if they so wished) before any variation or relaxation was considered or ordered.

11. The adoptive parents generally, and the adoptive mother of 'B' and 'C' especially, have described how upset or "devastated" they  have been by the approach to them.  Naturally, I regret the distress to them.  Nevertheless, the contents of the adopters' several statements weigh considerably upon me and I remain quite clear that they had to be told and consulted and that my decision of last October was right and inevitable.

12. The children's guardian has visited both adoptive homes and I now have considerable information about the current circumstances of all three children and their degree of knowledge and information about their birth parents, as well as very full statements from all the adoptive parents. 

13. Since the hearing last October there has been another significant development.  As they indicated at that hearing that they might do, Wakefield have now  applied for an injunction or reporting restriction order binding the press, broadcasters and other media directly.  If there is to be any relaxation or variation of the orders against the birth parents directly, with the result that some communication with the media, publishers or broadcasters is permitted, Wakefield consider (and I agree) that it is important that the media should know clearly and directly what they, the media, can and cannot publish. 

14. A body of e-mails has been shown and supplied to me (some of them dated between the oral hearing and this judgment) which satisfies me as required by section 12(2)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998; and satisfies me that Wakefield have appropriately served notice of their application and other required documents upon the Press Association Copy Direct service in accordance with the practice direction and practice note of 18th March 2005 and also upon certain other companies which are specifically named in the order which I make today and which do not themselves subscribe to the Copy Direct service. 

15. A journalist, Mr Matthew Cooper (the Midlands editor for the Press Association), attended at the outset of the hearing. He said that he had been instructed to attend by the Press Association simply in order to obtain a copy of the resulting judgment. I assured him that I would arrange for him to receive a copy of the approved official transcript when it is available. In fact, I am now delivering this judgment publicly in open court and will make it freely available, as well as directing that Wakefield supply it to each body named in the order and any other body whom they serve with the order. 

16. Save for the brief but welcome attendance of Mr Cooper, the press and media have not sought to participate at all at this hearing, nor have they made any written representation.  Their responses to the e-mails from Wakefield are merely acknowledgements.  That fact does not in any way diminish, however, my own duty, both specifically under section 12(4) of the Human Rights Act 1998, and generally, as a court in a free and democratic society, to pay particular regard to the importance in a democratic society of the right of freedom of expression.

17. In this regard, I have very much in mind, although I will not quote them in full, paragraphs 35 and 36 of the speech of Lord Steyn in the case of In Re S (FC)(a child)(Appellant) [2004] UKHL 47, [2005] 1 AC 593, where he emphasised that even for national newspapers it is a costly matter to contest an application for an injunction; and that the court must not "fall into the trap of considering the position from the point of view of national newspapers only.  Local newspapers play a huge role."

The legal framework
18. The last decade has seen a considerable number of reported cases at every level of higher court upon the interplay between freedom of expression and the need to protect the rights and welfare of children and the families with whom they live.  Several reported judgments themselves refer to twenty or more earlier authorities.  For busy first instance judges operating at the coal face in cases such as this, there has to be a simpler approach and process.  In the present case, although I was supplied with a bundle of authorities, counsel for each birth parent and for the local authority made no reference to reported authorities in their skeleton arguments and only minimal reference during oral submissions and, in my view, they were right not to do so. Mr Stephen Switalski, on behalf of the children's guardian, very neatly summarised the legal framework in just over one page of his very helpful written skeleton argument. In my view, the legal framework applicable to my decision in this case can and should be simply stated.  The real difficulty lies, of course, in striking the appropriate balance on the facts and in the circumstances of the case.

19. Save for this application, there are no subsisting legal proceedings in relation to the children, and the previous care, freeing and adoption proceedings are all completely concluded.  The continuing statutory restriction upon publication is that imposed by section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960, as amended.  The court may both relax or increase that restriction. 

20. Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life) and Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights are both directly applicable and their interaction is in play.  It is no longer necessary in a judgment at first instance routinely to set out these Articles in full and verbatim.  As the applications affect the exercise of the Convention right to freedom of expression, I am required by sections 12(1) and (4) of the Human Rights Act 1998 to "have particular regard to the importance of the Convention right to freedom of expression" but that in no way makes any right under Article 10 outweigh rights under Article 8.  Rather, as the House of Lords said at paragraph 17 of the speech of Lord Steyn in Re S:

"First, neither Article has as such precedence over the other.  Secondly, where the values under the two Articles are in conflict, an intense focus on the comparative importance of the specific rights being claimed in the individual case is necessary.  Thirdly, the justifications for interfering with or restricting each right must be taken into account.  Finally, the proportionality test must be applied to each.  For convenience I will call this the ultimate balancing test."

21. In paragraph 58 of his judgment in the case of Clayton v Clayton [2006] EWCA (Civ) 878, [2007] 1 FLR 11, Sir Mark Potter P (sitting in the Court of Appeal) repeated the following neat summary from a previous judgment of his own:

"… each Article propounds a fundamental right which there is a pressing social need to protect.  Equally, each Article qualifies the right it propounds so far as it may be lawful, necessary, and proportionate to do so in order to accommodate the other.  The exercise to be performed is one of parallel analysis in which the starting point is presumptive parity, in that neither Article has precedence over or trumps the other. The exercise of parallel analysis requires the court to examine the justification for interfering with each right and the issue of proportionality is to be considered in respect of each.  It is not a mechanical exercise to be decided on the basis of rival generalities.  An intense focus on the comparative importance of the specific rights being claimed in the individual case is necessary before the ultimate balancing test in the terms of proportionality is carried out."

22. That passage as well as the passage I have quoted from Lord Steyn emphasises how case specific on the facts and circumstances of the individual case the approach must be, and to them I now turn.

The position of the birth parents
23. The essential position of each birth parent cannot be better expressed than in their own words which I have already quoted at paragraphs 7 and 8 above.  Each feels that they have been a victim of injustice.  Each says that they accept that the adoption orders are irreversible and that the children can never come back to them and each expressly agrees to be bound by an order (which I will make) that they "must not, whether by themselves, or by instructing or encouraging any other person, in any way attempt to locate, or ascertain the current identity of, or communicate with any of the children or with their adoptive families, by any means (save by way of indirect contact through the adoption 'letterbox' system)."

24. That position by and on behalf of each birth parent is absolutely cardinal to protecting and safeguarding, not only the right to privacy but also the welfare of all three children in their adoptive families.  Any attempt by either birth parent to interfere in any way whatsoever with the current families or to find out where they live could be devastating in its effect upon those families and the children. 

25. But both birth parents continue to feel a desire, first demonstrated by the contacts with the press in 2005, to gain publicity for their stories.  They describe this as a "fight", although the fact of publicity would be an end in itself. It would not, and certainly should not, achieve any alteration at all in the respective positions of the birth parents, the children or the adoptive families.  The birth parents assert their qualified right to freedom of expression.  They consider that there is a public importance in the public being aware of the (in their view) unjust way in which the local authority, social workers, a guardian, courts and judges, and, collectively, the system, have treated them and their children.  It may be that they feel, too, that their own burdens, emotions and feelings may be assuaged to some degree if they can get them "off their chest" through legitimate publicity.

26. If and to the extent that these can be achieved without causing or risking damage, disruption or upset to the children and their adoptive families, these seem to me to be entirely legitimate objectives. There is undoubtedly considerable and important public interest in, and debate about, the interference of the state, including courts, in the lives of families, and that debate can only be informed by concrete examples.  Human beings do feel a need to get things off their chest and, subject to protecting the welfare, rights and freedoms of others, should not be prevented from doing so.

27. As they themselves indicated in the quoted passages from their statements, both parents have accepted that there must be restrictions and restraint.  Both of them have always accepted that there could be no publication of the names, addresses or dates of birth of any of the children or the adopters, and that no image, photograph or picture of the children or the adopters could be published if any such publication might lead to the identification of the children as being the children of the birth parents.  The birth father further accepted during the course of the hearing that the names and addresses of the birth parents themselves should not be published;  and that any image, photograph or picture of the birth parents themselves must be pixellated, "rear view" or otherwise obscured or disguised, such that the depicted person cannot be recognised or identified.

28. The precise wording of drafts of the proposed orders evolved during the course of the oral hearing, and by the close of the argument there was, in fact, complete consensus between the birth father, the local authority and the children's guardian.  There was considerable consensus also by and on behalf of the birth mother, with two exceptions.  She continues to request that she and the media should be permitted to publish her name and an un-pixellated, wholly recognisable and identifiable picture of herself.  I will discuss this request at some length below.

The position of any media
29. As no body was present or represented, I do not know the case specific position of any part of the media, although, no doubt, they would seek in general terms to resist any erosion of the freedom to publish.  It may be (I do not know) that the publicity which has already occurred in 2005 represents the extent of any media interest in this case or story.  It may be that any further or continuing interest has, in any event, diminished with the passing of time.  On the other hand, the acts and decisions of local authorities and courts in this field are currently highly topical and there is undoubtedly sociological as well as human interest in the story of these birth parents. 

30. Insofar as there may be any or any renewed media interest, I am very conscious of the tenor of Lord Steyn's observation at paragraph 34 of his speech in Re S.   Although that case and observation concerned reporting a current sensational criminal trial, it may, in general, be observed (paraphrasing Lord Steyn) that, from a newspaper's point of view, a report of a story without revealing the identity of the subjects would be a very much disembodied story, likely to be of less interest to readers and given less prominence by editors.  It is, nevertheless, the case, as we have all seen in newspapers or on television, that stories may be told using false and anonymised names and no, or pixellated or otherwise disguised, pictures.

31. In relation to the absent and unrepresented media, I cannot avoid some assumption or "generality" and I do assume that they would wish, generalising, responsibly to publish the story of the birth parents, and that the more identifying information or pictures they are allowed to publish the more they would be likely to do so.

The children and their adoptive families
32. The children themselves are far too young to be directly approached or to have a view of the matter.  The guardian has visited them and observed them in their homes, and he reports, in summary, that their respective physical, emotional and educational needs are being met by their adoptive parents to a high standard and that they are well bonded and attached to their respective adoptive parents.  But the guardian has not even tangentially discussed these issues with any of the children. 

33. All the adoptive parents of all three children have made detailed and very personal written statements (jointly in the case of the parents of 'D') which I have read with the utmost care.  All were aware before the adoptions of the prior existence of the injunctions, although the adoptive parents of 'D' say expressly that "The information about the injunction was not in any way influential in terms of our decision to adopt…"  In the case of 'D', the fact that 'D' is adopted is not widely known.  In the case of 'B' and 'C' the adoptive parents have spoken more widely amongst their friends about the fact of adoption but "only one member of our family is aware of the full account." 

34. The adoptive parents of 'D' describe the current proceedings as causing them anxiety and being stressful for them and they are worried "about information being given which could breach the confidentiality around 'D's placement." 

35. The statement of the adoptive mother of 'B' and 'C' is especially poignant.  She says that she is "struggling to find suitable words to describe the horror of seeing [her] children's background exposed to the media in such a selfish and cruel manner…"  She refers to "a revengeful attack on Wakefield social services."  She clearly feels that a "'name and shame' campaign" against social workers is very unfair and unjustifiable and would always be "a one-dimensional human interest story" because they, the adopters, would never give the other side of it.  She says that since hearing the news of this application, she feels "emotionally devastated." 

"I am grieving for the life we once took for granted… I want to protect the life that [the children] are living now, and not expose them to public glare of the media.  I feel that we are living in fear, the fear of what the judge may decide, and the impact that has on our lives and our privacy.  I fear what the birth parents may say to the media and the possible media frenzy that could ensue…"

She says that:

"Our lives have been blown apart with fears, uncertainties and possibilities;  nothing feels safe or secure any more."

36. The adoptive father of 'B' and 'C' says that:

"The injunction gave us the confidence and reassurance that previous media reporting involving the birth parents would not be repeated…" and this "did give me the confidence and security to talk locally about our two beautiful children… without fear that they may be identified… and consequently expose them to either media attention or visits from the birth parents."

37. Towards the end of his statement, the adoptive father of 'B' and 'C' expresses particular concern that if there is any relaxation of the injunction the birth parents may "violate" a specific restriction, e.g. on naming the children;  but he couples this with the suggestion that:

"Perhaps a relaxation of the injunction against the birth parents, together with a media injunction against the media themselves would ensure that details were not published that could identify the children either directly or indirectly."

That is the suggestion which Wakefield have, by their application, taken forward and which I propose to adopt.

38. What all the adoptive parents emphasise is that all the children have, and have access to, a considerable body of material and "memorabilia" in relation to their birth parents.  They know their names and they have many photographs of them in their life story books or "memory boxes".  Thus, quite apart from any risk of the children being identified by third parties as the children of these birth parents, there is, in relation to all three children in both adoptive homes, a profound fear by their adoptive parents that one or more of the children themselves might see a birth parent depicted in a magazine, newspaper or on television and realise that it is their own birth parent, with unpredictable and possibly profound consequences. 

39. The children's guardian has seen the life story books and memory boxes and comments within paragraph 7 on internal page 11 of his report (now at bundle 1, page BB94):

"I would be concerned if photographs and/or images of Mr 'A' and/or  Mrs 'A' appeared in the press and/or media and, in particular, if the same were to be broadcast.  As I have indicated earlier within this report, all of the children have numerous photographs of their biological parents and, in my view, are at a stage currently, and will increasingly be at a stage where, they would be able to immediately identify and make a connection between the photographs they see and images arising through the media.  I would be concerned as to the potential repercussions of this in terms of the potential for this to create what I regard as unnecessary and unwanted stresses and difficulties for the children and, of course, their adoptive parents."

40. Additionally, Mr Switalski made the important point on behalf of the guardian at the hearing that the guardian is very concerned that if there is any risk of any of the children seeing pictures of the birth parents in the press or on television this may lead the adoptive parents to cease their current healthy practice of looking at the material in the books/boxes with the children. In other words, said Mr Switalski:

"The birth mother's wish to publish her own photograph may have a direct and adverse bearing on the way adoption is handled within the adoptive families."

Performing the balance
41. Having thus described with some intensity the specific rights which are claimed in this case and the importance that each of the various parties attaches to them, I have to consider their comparative importance.

42. In my view, the highest importance in this case does attach to the welfare of each of these children and to the need not to destabilise or disrupt any of them in their adoptive placements. They are young, needy, innocent and defenceless.  Whatever the shortcomings or failures of the child protection system, it does no service to society or the public to victimise children in the name of exposing such actual or perceived or alleged shortcomings or failures.  But restrictions should go no further than are actually necessary, justifiable and proportionate to protect the children and the Article 8 rights of themselves and their adoptive families.

43. It has been completely accepted in this case that the children and their adoptive families must not be named, depicted or otherwise identified. In the course of some very well balanced and well argued submissions on behalf of the mother, to which I pay tribute, Miss Catherine Mason submitted that it is not necessary or justifiable to prevent publication of the name (or, at the very least, the forename) or pictures of the birth mother. She asked me to read, as I have, a long up to date hand-written statement by the birth mother as to how she currently feels. 

44. As Miss Mason aptly put it:

"She would very much like to use her own name and image in any story because it is her story."

Miss Mason stressed the observations of Lord Steyn which I have already quoted to the effect that a story without a name is a disembodied story, and that if there is a restriction on using the birth parents' names or photographs, the media are less likely to publish or broadcast or to do so as extensively as they otherwise might. 

45. Miss Mason stressed some comments by Sir Mark Potter P at the end of paragraph 51 of his judgment in Clayton v Clayton, which I will not repeat but have firmly in mind, and she stressed various passages in the statements of the adoptive parents which, she submitted, indicate that third parties would be unlikely to make a connection between reading about these birth parents (even if named and depicted) and these adopted children. Those submissions do not, however, meet the point so strongly made by the adoptive parents and the guardian that these children themselves would recognise the name and/or pictures if they chanced to hear or see them.

46. On the issue of publishing the name, or a recognisable or identifiable picture of the birth parents (or either of them), I have very firmly concluded that the welfare and rights of the children, individually as well as collectively, clearly outweigh the rights of the birth parents or media under Article 10.  It is necessary, proportionate and justifiable to prevent the pictures or names (including the forenames) of the birth parents from being published in any context and in any way which might lead anyone (including, very importantly, any of the children themselves) to make any connection between the publication and any of the children.  In short, if there is any publication of the birth parents' story it must not include their names or any recognisable or identifiable picture of them.  Provided, however, that a picture (whether in print or on television) is conscientiously and responsibly pixellated and/or "rear view" or otherwise obscured or disguised, such that the depicted person cannot be recognised or identified, then a picture or image may be depicted.  Similarly, since there is no evidence that any of the children would or could recognise a birth parent's voice, I do not require that their voice or speech is disguised or distorted.

47. The prohibition includes prohibition on publishing the dates of birth of any of the children which are an obviously identifying feature. It seems to me, however (and neither the local authority nor the guardian suggested otherwise), that if there is to be any publication at all, it could not preclude reference to the age (expressed only as a whole year) of all or any of the children.  Some reference to the period in which events happened could not be excluded altogether, for otherwise it would be impossible to know whether a story related to very recent events or, to exaggerate the point, events ten or more years ago.  It is, in my view, unreal and a disembodiment too far not to anchor any published story to approximate time;  and unreal, therefore, to preclude reference, expressed as a whole year to age (e.g. aged three, four, five or six or as the case may be).  For that reason, I have already referred to the ages of the children in this public judgment.

48. During the course of argument, it was agreed that there could be reference also to gender.  While preparing this judgment, I have changed my mind on this point. In relation to age, some reference to time cannot realistically be avoided, as I have just explained.  Gender, however, is different. There is absolutely nothing in the birth parents' stories which is gender specific.  Any decisions which were taken in relation to any child were entirely unrelated to gender.  The course of events in relation to all or any of the children would have been exactly the same whatever the gender of that child or any of them. In short, gender adds nothing to the story and avoidance of reference to gender does not disembody it.  On the other hand, precise reference to gender adds a small piece to the jigsaw which just might lead to a third party in the localities in which any of these children live surmising that an article or programme in the press or on television related to that child or these children. 

49. For that reason, I have deleted the words "or gender" which appeared in earlier drafts of what are now paragraphs 5 and 7 of the orders directed respectively to the parents and to the media, and I have added a prohibition on publishing gender in paragraphs 4(b) and 3(b) respectively.  I have also deliberately avoided any gender specific pronoun or other reference to gender in this judgment.  Any written publication must be rigorously scrutinised and edited to ensure that there is no reference to gender or a gender specific pronoun. 

50. It would be unthinkable that any sound or television or similar broadcast would be broadcast live, with the high risk of a birth parent blurting out a name or identifying feature, whether deliberately or accidentally, and any pre-recorded broadcast must be similarly rigorously edited, if necessary by brief sound distortion (as in an expletive deleted), to prevent disclosure of gender. [This, of course, precludes the use of fictitious but gender indicative names, but not fictitious initials, provided it is made clear that any initials are not the respective child's true initials]. 

51. So far as I and any of the represented parties (which, of course, include Wakefield) are aware, there is absolutely nothing to connect any of these children in their current circumstances with Wakefield or with any social worker, judge or children's guardian who was involved at the time of the care or adoption proceedings.  The rights and interests to be protected are those of the children and their adoptive families. Neither local authorities, nor judges, nor guardians, nor social workers who work in this public field can claim any immunity or protection from their names being mentioned in legitimate media reporting, and it was accepted and agreed by all represented parties (and, in particular, by Wakefield and the guardian) that such names may be named. I appreciate the comments, in particular, of the adoptive mother of 'B' and 'C' on pages 2 and 3 of her written statement which I have briefly quoted in paragraph 35 above (her reference to "a revengeful attack on Wakefield Social Services" and to a "'name and shame' campaign").  But, although she is sympathetic to them, she does not represent the interests of social workers or other professional people, including judges.

52. The orders themselves are modelled on established and well known precedents, modified to meet the points I have discussed above. In all other respects they are, I hope, self explanatory and do not need further amplification by me.  Copies of the orders and of this judgment when the official approved transcript is available must be served upon, or supplied to, all parties, the adoptive families and those media bodies whom Wakefield served with notice of this application or whom they wish to be bound by the order.