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Posts Tagged ‘privacy’


diamond in the rough

Image by Justin Bugsy Sailor (flickr)

I’m dumbfounded by the blithe obliviousness of Naomi Campbell, opining at how inconvenient it is to her to have to give evidence to a tedious war crimes tribunal, as if it is something of no significance. Inconvenient, Naomi? Echoes of Tony Hayward wanting his life back anyone? It’s quite shocking to hear someone express herself in quite this way where she plainly has relevant evidence to give, which could assist the tribunal in deciding charges of rape, murder, enslavement and child soldiering. Almost as astonishing is the apparent ease with which Naomi says she discarded or disposed of a gift of several diamonds, without much question or concern (diamonds that until today she is reported as having denied receiving). Although perhaps knowledge of the latter makes the former somewhat less astonishing.

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But is there another viewpoint? Naomi says she was a reluctant witness due to fears for her safety and that of her family. What if she is genuinely fearful? It would explain much about her reaction to the situation thus far, and indeed even the tone of her testimony today. In Naomi Campbell’s solipsistic world, it may just be a genuinely held fear that Charles Taylor’s cronies will come and duff her up or seek retribution against her family: genuinely held even if not genuinely likely. Although it must be said that it’s not a fear that Mia Farrow or anyone else has let stand in the way of obvious public duty. And no doubt the high security apparently rustled up for her today will have done nothing to dampen Ms Campbell’s sense of her own centrality.

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Then again, perhaps its just egocentric whining and publicity seeking? Siobhan Butterworth comments here, and I’m inclined to agree with the thrust of her piece, noting as she does that of course we have not heard all the legal arguments for privacy but that it is strange to be granted requests for privacy entering and leaving the court whilst her testimony is streamed live to the world.

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Lord Justice Munby recently delivered the annual Hershman Levy Lecture on the topic of Transparency and the Children Schools and Families Act 2010, in which he referred to my recent article in Family Law, republished here. You can read the lecture here on the Association of Lawyers for Children website.

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The FLBA hosted a panel discussion on ‘Publicity in Family Proceedings’ today. It was moderated by Mr Justice Coleridge, and the panel was comprised of Mrs Justice Eleanor King, Anthony Hayden QC, Joshua Rozenberg and Dr Julia Brophy. It was a really interesting discussion. There was some consensus on a number of points: that greater openness was desirable, that the first round of reforms introducing media access had been a bit of a damp squib and that the proposed reforms contained in the Children, Schools & Families Bill 2009 were an impenetrable mess.

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But it’s an enormous and complex topic to cover in an hour, and there was an aspect of this debate that I wish had been explored more thoroughly. Much of the discussion was based on the supposed dichotomy between journalists (reputable) and bloggers (boo, hiss) and the assumption that all things bad are represented by the internet bogeyman. The Bill it seems, will remove (inadvertently perhaps?) the power of the court to permit access to persons other than ‘accredited media representatives’, which theoretically at least can presently be used to permit access to the responsible blogger without the benefit of a press card. It is of course imperative that whatever the rules permit to be heard, disclosed or published, safeguards should be in place to promote responsible reporting and minimise unbalanced coverage. But, in much the same way that many held misplaced expectations that the press would be a conduit for educating the public at large about the day to day work of the family justice system (is it really a surprise that they don’t report a range of cases across the board but select only those with the power to sell papers?), there seems to be a misplaced perception that we can or should draw some bright line between the ‘journalists’ and ‘the bloggers’.

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First: Journalists and bloggers alike publish, via their different media, information for their own purposes. They none of them serve the interests of the family justice system in educating or informing the public: although their interests may coincide from time to time they are not coterminous.

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Today’s press release from the MoJ in respect of proposed legislative reform to further open up the Family Courts. Hmmm….More on this when I’ve had time to look properly…

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A report published by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust this week entitled ‘The Database State – Scrap it Fix it or Keep it?’ has given the ‘red light’ on privacy grounds to several databases used to track children for child protection purposes, namely ContactPoint (details of every child in the country and who is working with them – recently remarked upon by Lord Laming in his second report on child protection in the wake of Baby P as a database which ‘will have particular advantages in reducing the possibility of children for whom there are concerns going unnoticed’.) and eCAF (assessment of children in need). The Integrated Children’s Services (social work case management tool) database which has already been the subject of criticism from Lord Laming and Social Workers for distracting social workers from the social work judgments they need to make to keep children safe and filling up their time instead with data entry received an amber light.

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Various articles today but read for example this article in The Guardian. I for one find it creepy that before his first birthday data is built up, stored and circulated about my son which years later may affect him and the way agencies relate to him.

POSTSCRIPT: And now work on ContactPoint has halted because its not secure enough to protect vulnerable children. See here.

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Journalism.co.uk notes an interesting issue about who will comprise the group ‘accredited media’ for the purposes of access to the family courts. Nobody seems yet to know the answer. I’d have thought it was of critical importance in terms of safeguarding privacy appropriately.

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For those of you with nothing better to do John Bolch at Family Lore has just interviewed me for a podcast, which you can download here.

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