A woman has been ordered to stop an online “campaign” against a court’s decision to take her two-year-old granddaughter into care.
Judge Ross Duggan ruled that by posting the name and photograph of the little girl on the internet and trying to track down her adoptive parents, the unidentified woman was “undermining the right enjoyed by the child” to a stable family life.
The woman had tried to convince a court she should be allowed to take custody of her granddaughter, and was said to be “very disappointed” by the decision to hand her over to social services at Staffordshire County Council.
In a ruling published online following a hearing at Stoke-on-Trent County Court, Judge Duggan said the woman had every right to comment upon or criticise the court’s decision.
But he barred publication of the child’s name and photograph following an application from the local authority.
The decision comes five months after the top family judge in England and Wales, Sir James Munby, refused to ban the publication of images showing a baby being taken away by social workers.
Explaining the difference in his decision, Judge Duggan said: “In that case the restraint of publication of photographs of a tiny baby was considered to be inappropriate,” said Judge Duggan.
“The present case I find to be very different. This child is significantly older and correspondingly easier to identify from photographs.
“Indeed, the grandmother has used a photograph as part of her campaign to seek out the whereabouts of the prospective adoptive placement.
“This is one of the most harmful aspects of the case and an element from which the child needs protection.
“Carrying out the same balancing exercise as did the president, I reach a different conclusion and find that the publication of photographs must be restrained alongside the publication of names.”
Judge Duggan said he had been shown her Facebook postings and added: “This child has a qualified right to privacy and family life. The courts of this country have decided that her future lies in adoption, which means that she has a qualified right to successful, stable, undisturbed family life within adoption.
“The evidence presented to me leaves me in no doubt that the grandmother has embarked upon a campaign to undermine these rights enjoyed by the child.”
He went on: “The order does not prevent campaigning, discussion or debate. However, as in many other cases, these must not include the use of the true names or photographs of the child as this would be harmful to her.”