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Social Media in Family Law Proceedings

Not many people will be aware that the Courts do have the power to grant Injunctions to prevent disgruntled parents speaking out publicly, such as on Social Media websites, about Family Law Proceedings.

This Injunction is called a Contra mundum Injunction which means “against the world” and is intended to be never-ending.   Such injunctions have, traditionally, only been granted in a very limited range of circumstances.  In the well known case of Venables and Thompson v News Group Newspapers([2001] EWHC 32 (QB)) the Court held that such an injunction could be granted in support of an action for breach of confidence because there was a real and strong possibility of serious physical harm and death.

In a recent Family Law case of Re J (A Child) (contra mundum injunction [2013] EWHC 2694 (Fam) which involved a new born child in Care Proceedings, a Contra mundum Injunction was granted.

This case raised important questions about the extent to which the public should be able to read and see what disgruntled parents say when they speak out about what they see as deficiencies in the family justice system, particularly when, as in this case, their complaints were about the care system. This case also raised important questions about how the court should adapt its practice to the realities of the internet, and in particular social media. The Father in this case had placed material on specific internet sites available generally on the World Wide Web.  This material identified the child who was the subject of these proceedings.  Concerns were raised that such media exposure not only is in breach of the child’s right to privacy but may also put the child at risk of harm now or in the future.  The Court decided to grant a contract mundum injunction that would last until the date of the child’s 18th birthday to provide protection from any further material being placed on World Wide Web and social media sites by the Father which would specifically identify the child.

Usually in cases such as this, the Courts initially accept undertakings from the perpetrators producing the material not to do it again, but if undertakings are breached, the Courts do have the power to send the perpetrators to prison.

The above mentioned recent case of Re J (A Child) (contra mundum injunction [2013] should be borne in mind by parents involved in contact/residence applications under the Children Act Proceedings, should they regularly use Social Media sites.


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Claire Holland is an experienced Family Lawyer based in Blaby. She qualified as a Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives in 2009.[/author_info] [/author] By Claire Holland – Chartered Legal Executive and Family Law Specialist Josiah Hincks Solicitors, Blaby Branch Office