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Senior judge rules on extent of anonymisation of two public law children judgments

Lord Justice Baker has given permission for two judgments he made in the Family Court to be published in full, except for identification of the child involved, following the end of criminal proceedings against the parents.

He has therefore named Child Q’s mother and father as Elizabeth Wilkins and Erik Vanselow.

In Plymouth City Council v Wilkins & Ors [2019] EWFC 70 Baker LJ said the Family Court was expected to publish judgments unless there were compelling reasons to the contrary.

The case began when Q was injured and Plymouth City Council initiated care proceedings.

He had decided the parents could be named as the criminal proceedings relating to assaults on Q were now ended and their names had received wide publicity.

A dispute though arose over whether father’s name should be disclosed since in the criminal trial Ms Wilkins was convicted of a number of offences, including one relating to the infliction of a head injury on Q, and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonmcnt while Mr Vanselow was acquitted. He argued that publication of his name might lead to the identification of the child.

When Baker LJ conducted a fact-finding hearing in the care proceedings, he had concluded that Mr Vaselow was responsible for the head injury, while the Crown Court trial had not.

Mr Vanselow applied to Family Court to vary the findings made and the President of the Family Division directed a rehearing of the fact-finding hearing before Baker LJ, who decided “my findings of fact remained unchanged”.

Baker LJ said he would publish the judgments with the names as this was in the public interest and the facts of the case had received “very substantial publicity” through reporting of the criminal trial, with the parents’ names published.

The judge added: “There is, however, a third reason for publishing the unredacted judgments in this case.

“The fact that the Family Court and the Crown Court have reached different conclusions as to the perpetrator of the head injury sustained by the child is itself a matter of public interest.

“I do not propose to make any further comment about this outcome. I have, however, reached the very clear conclusion that it is not for this court to restrict public knowledge of this issue, or inhibit discussion of the wider consequences.”

Mark Smulian

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