LF v A NHS Trust & Ors [2022] EWCOP 8

An application brought by LF, P’s father, to set aside a Reporting Restriction Order (‘RRO’) in proceedings relating to where his adult daughter should be cared for when discharged from her current placement in a children’s hospital.

P has a degenerative disorder affecting her central nervous system, and has been an in-patient at the children’s hospital for 13 years. On 13/12/21, Hayden J made a judgment in P’s best interests, concluding that she should reside at a specialist residential unit (‘A Home’) in order to have her needs assessed and as a stepping stone in the ultimate objective of P moving to the care of her parents.  Full details of this judgment can be found here.  LF applied for permission to appeal the judgement on the basis that he wished for P to move home to her parents directly from the children’s hospital.  The appeal was dismissed.

LF now sought permission to set aside the RRO, the objective of which was to protect P’s privacy.  LF contended it was in P’s best interests to have the RRO set aside so that P’s story could be shared.  This would allow the family crowd funding opportunities to raise funds to purchase a specially adapted vehicle and lifting the RRO would positively impact P as there would be a better platform for fundraising.

The Respondents, having visited the family’s social media sites, reported the content to reveal a distinct opposition to A Care Home.  They submitted the family’s reporting on the matter was an unmistakable resolve to get P home to her parents.  Worryingly, there was no reference to the fact that A Care Home was merely a stepping stone in the ultimate goal to P moving to her parents care.  In order to optimise the chance of success of the placement, P’s parents and the staff would require a respectful and constructive relationship focussed on P’s needs, and it was felt that, if the RRO was lifted, any media attention A Care Home may receive could only have an adverse impact on the home and ultimately jeopardise P’s placement there.

Hayden J drew attention to his concern relating to a blog written purportedly in P’s own voice, who had very limited ability to communicate her views.  Hayden J stated he was troubled by the hijacking of P’s voice, which had been portrayed in an infantile manner, despite P being 27 years old.  It was particularly troublesome to Hayden J that the views attributed to P were clearly those of her father, which ironically gave rise to concerns relating to P’s Article 10 rights.

In reaching his conclusion, Hayden J considered the need to identify what the competing rights and interests were and to undertake a balancing exercise on the relative importance of the specific rights being claimed.  On one hand, LF’s Article 10 rights were restricted under the RRO.  However, P’s rights to be cared for safely in order to maximise the quality of the remainder of her life were jeopardised if the RRO was lifted.

Hayden J ultimately rejected the application, stating that the Article 10 rights asserted by P’s father was to pursue, in the public domain, an outcome which had been assessed as contrary to his daughter’s interests.  The previous decision to move P to A Care Home was done so in her best interests, with the view this was a stepping stone, driven by the common objective of P returning home.  Hayden J iterated the importance of LF’s freedom of speech and set out that the decision to curtail this was not because the nature of the information LF wished to portray was misleading but on the basis that the decision to lift the RRO would have directly jeopardised the transition and security of P’s placement at A Home. This would have significantly diminished the prospect of P being able to return home.  It was therefore concluded that the decision to restrict LF’s Article 10 rights remained justified.

The full judgment can be read here

If you have any questions regarding this summary case law please contact Michelle Wright here

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