ROYAL COURT OF
of Identification of Children in Public Law Cases
This practice direction is provided in
order to ensure that risks of identification of children arising from the
publication of judgments of the Royal Court in public law cases involving,
inter alia, care proceedings, are minimised.
It is also designed to ensure that explicit descriptions of sexual abuse
and other matters of personal nature to a child (for example medical treatment)
are, where appropriate, redacted from any public judgments.
The starting point is that justice needs
to be open and transparent. It is
frequently necessary for particular cases, including those involving children,
to be heard in private but nonetheless even in those circumstances it is often important
for a judgment to be published. Article
6 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides that even in
circumstances where the press and public are excluded from all or part of a hearing
in the interests of justice, it is necessary for judgment to “be pronounced publically”.
It is recognised that this need for
public justice may yield to other factors, including where the welfare of
children is the principal focus of the Court’s attention.
The Court’s practice of producing
anonymised judgments has developed in order to protect
the identity of children and, hitherto, judgments have frequently contained the
full reasoning but omitted names and other details which would permit
Publication of an anonymised judgment
enables the public to understand why the Court makes the decisions that it
does. It also enables legal
professionals to keep abreast of developments in the Law and the Court’s
current practice. Further, it is often
helpful for the profession to understand how the Law applies to particular
However it has been appreciated that,
particularly in a small jurisdiction, the risk of inadvertent and jigsaw
identification of children is a real one and accordingly all judgments in
public law cases concerning children will need to be considered with this
Direction in mind. This may, in
particular cases, result in additional redaction and abridgment of judgments
than has been the practice hitherto.
Anonymisation is not confined to
concealing names but extends to the avoidance of any material liable to lead to
the identification of a child.
Accordingly, the following should be
regarded as good practice.
Redaction of personal and geographical indicators
When anonymising the names of children’s
parents and other family members the best course is to use initials which are
not the real initials of the child/parents/others. Initials should be fictitious. For parents, the terms “mother” and “father”
should be used instead of initials as this assists the reader in following the
judgment. Pseudonyms should be avoided
as, although they on one view make the case “come
alive”, they may be inappropriate for particular culture / religious
groups. Inappropriate pseudonyms can
cause offence. In the case of a large
family / sibling group which might involve identification (which includes
sibling group with more than four members) the number of other siblings should
not be identified unless essential.
The date of birth of any child should
not be set out. It gives rise to risk of
identification and is rarely necessary.
The year of birth should be sufficient.
Other specific dates in the judgment
should be avoided unless essential. For
example, the date of a criminal conviction could identify a parent and
thereafter the child. The year of any
conviction or any other key event would normally suffice. If the conviction is for an unusual offence
then it may be sufficient for it to be referred to generally, e.g. as “an offence of violence” or “a sexual offence”.
Generally a person’s
ethnicity need not be referred to.
Judgments are not a source of data for ethnic monitoring purposes. Reference to families having links to the
communities outside of Jersey are generally unnecessary and can be redacted
from the public judgment. If it is
necessary to specify ethnic group status, consider using a generic term e.g. “of Eastern European origin”.
Any reference to religion
should be redacted unless it is relevant.
Reference to the religious belief of the child/parent may assist in
jigsaw identification of the child/family.
School, education issues, professional witnesses
Any detailed description of a problem a
child or young person has experienced at school should be redacted. These problems will be familiar to other
pupils, teachers and possibly other parents and when combined with year of
birth and gender may be high risk indicators for identification. Any description can be redacted or abridged
and replaced with words such as “child D
experienced various problems at school over an extended period”. By the same token it should generally be
unnecessary to identify in a published judgment the name of a specialist or
residential school attended by a child as such schools are easily identified in
As to naming the social workers and
other support workers, these should not routinely be named without
consideration of whether or not this may contribute to the identification of
the child/young person. It should be
sufficient to refer to the findings of the “key
social worker” or “family support
If there are particular concerns about
one or more social workers, it may be appropriate for there to be a direction
that the unredacted or partly redacted judgment be
released to a relevant regulatory body or Ofsted.
Care should be taken regarding the
identification of a community resource such as a contact centre or Parish or
other centre providing child services as this may also assist in jigsaw
identification of the child. Consideration
should be given to using a generic term to avoid identifying the location.
The same principles apply to naming a
clinician. Young local people including children are likely to know the name of
the local doctors / community paediatricians.
As to any criticisms of clinical evidence, particularly in relation to
specific incidents where the child may have suffered harm, it should be
remembered that any details may be shared on media / social media and be
available on the internet for the remainder of the child’s life. Redaction / abridgment of such evidence
should be considered.
Identification of the name of an expert
witness is generally unlikely to identify the child. However, again, if the evidence given by that
witness contains detail as to the child’s medical or other treatment or other
conditions or circumstances which might lead to the identification of the child
(bearing in mind that the details of his / her evidence may be shared on social
media and other media) then consideration should be given to abridging /
redacting that part of the evidence. If
it is necessary to criticise the evidence of the witness in question then
consideration should be given to doing so in such a way as it does not set out
in detail matters connected to their evidence which might identify the child.
Abridgment / redaction of explicit descriptions of sexual
abuse or medical treatment
In accordance with the principles
referred to above, consideration should be given to abridgment / redaction of
explicit descriptions of sexual abuse and / or medical treatment of the
child. An alternative to abridgment is
to put such material in an annexe or appendix to the judgment which is only
available to the Court of Appeal and the parties.
6.2 Care needs
to be taken in referring to previous proceedings regarding sexual abuse of the
child or their siblings, either when repeating the detail of that abuse or
providing a link to such a judgment, if the latter is not abridged.
6.3 Consideration should be given to redaction of details
of any medical treatment given to the child which also can give rise to risks
of jigsaw identification.
Judgments and publication
7.1 The Court will continue its current practice of
providing to the parties a draft judgment for the parties’ advocates for their
comment, the judgment to stand embargoed until it is handed down.
7.2 As a matter of good practice, at the end of the
every hearing it is appropriate to inform the parents and any other interested
parties that a judgment that is anonymised in accordance with the principles
set out in this Direction will be published in due course, and that compliance
with the guidance contained in this Direction is designed to protect children
from identification; and that any material which is likely to lead to
identification or which might be embarrassing to them in the future will be
abridged to safeguard their welfare.
7.3 Parties should be given the opportunity to make
representations as to any further redaction / abridgment that is necessary in
order to ensure compliance with this Practice Direction in so far as the Court
is not already given an indication as to the areas for abridgment / redaction
it has provisionally identified. Further,
parties should always be given an opportunity to make submissions orally or in
writing after the draft judgment is handed down on the merits of publication.
7.4 It may be appropriate for any published judgment to
be accompanied with the following wording:
“This version of the judgment may be published only on condition
that the anonymity of the children and their family is preserved and that there
is omitted any detail or information that may lead to their identification,
whether on its own or in conjunction with other material in the judgment. This
includes, but not exclusively, information of location, details of family
members, organisations such as school or hospital, and unusual factual detail.
All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this
condition is complied with. Failure to comply will be a contempt of court.”
7.5 As to the unredacted
judgment, it should, when finalised, be accompanied by wording along the
“This judgment is
private to the parties and their lawyers. They may not show or otherwise
communicate this judgment or its contents to any other person. Any party or
their lawyers wishing to show or inform any other person about the judgment or
any other person wishing to see the judgment must first of all come back to
court and ask the permission of [insert name of judge]. The judge does not give
leave for the judgment to be reported. It is contempt of court for any person
to publish the contents of this judgment without first obtaining a
direction will come into force on 2nd December, 2019.