A controversial document that was published on the judiciary’s website on 23rd November was “published in error”, according to the office of Family Court President Andrew McFarlane.
The document contained graphic details about suggested child sexual abuse, and included a confused preamble which appeared to confirm the document had been approved for publication by the presiding judge, Richard Clarke.
The preamble said:
“This judgment was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the children and members of their family must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.“
Researching Reform tweeted the document after it was published on the judiciary website, but deleted the tweet once the document had been removed from the site.
The document was taken down from global legal database BAILII several hours after publication and removed from the judiciary website more than 24 hours after the initial upload, without any formal announcement from the President’s office about the public availability of the document.
Family law commentators on Twitter had suggested that the file contained at least one reference to a person’s name in its redacted form and additionally, that the document had used the real initials of the parties to the case.
It is not clear whether Judge Clarke had allowed the document to be published due to a lack of understanding about what judgments could be shared, whether he failed to review the document after it had been redacted, and whether parties to the case had been consulted prior to publication.
Researching Reform contacted the President on 26th November to ask for information about the document, and why it had been published and then subsequently removed.
Responding to the request today, a spokesperson for the president’s office said:
“Judges are working hard to publish more family court judgments. In this case the judgment was published in error and every effort was made to remove it from both websites as quickly as possible. We will be reviewing publication protocols.”