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Media reporting to be discussed by JCPC chair at conference

05 October 2010

The balance between informed media reporting on child protection issues and protecting the privacy of the children involved will be the subject of a lecture at a forthcoming conference on disclosure and publicity in children proceedings.

Following the sell-out Jersey Child Protection Committee conference on 24 September promoting the welfare of vulnerable children, the JCPC’s independent chair, Mike Taylor, will be addressing the event, Privacy and Transparency in Children Proceedings, on 8 October.

One of a panel of expert speakers, Mr Taylor’s theme will be publicity and the role of the Child Protection Committee.

“This was a key issue in the reporting of the JCPC’s serious case review published in March this year,” he said. “The children in Family A had previously been the subject of court proceedings and any information published that might make them identifiable was unacceptable.

“This is sometimes difficult to co-ordinate as there is the possibility of creating a jigsaw effect, in which separate pieces of information, when pieced together, could reveal their identities along with information about their lives which could be both distressing and cause even further damage.”

As a result, the Bailiff, Michael Birt, has issued a reminder to judges to limit information to that which is essential to support the reasoning and decision of the court and amended a Practice Direction to ensure that draft judgements in children’s cases should be reviewed to test confidentiality.

Although the reporting of any story where the identity of those concerned may not be revealed is a familiar issue for the media, the issues around the Serious Case Review were particularly pertinent in a small community such as Jersey’s, said Mr Taylor.

“A great deal of work was done to prepare and publish the Serious Case Review Report and ensure an informed media representation both of the process and the findings.

“As JCPC chair I am responsible for any Serious Case Review and for the publication of as full as possible a report, since the process must be independent and transparent, and lessons that can be learned from such a review are as important as the review itself.

“However, particularly in a small community like Jersey’s, the delicate balance between transparency and privacy must be negotiated and the Serious Case Review into Family A is a case in point.”

The Hanson Renouf (Barristers and Advocates) event on 8 October is a conference for English family law solicitors and barristers, Jersey and Guernsey advocates, solicitors and other lawyers, judges, jurats, guardians, members of CAFCASS, children’s services, education, probation and journalists.

Delegates from Jersey, Guernsey, England and Alderney have already signed up to the event, which will be held at the Radisson Blu Waterfront hotel.  

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