Mother who published confidential family court papers on Facebook charged with contempt of court

Facebook log in page on a computer screen.
Facebook log in page on a computer screen.

A MOTHER who published confidential details of her family court proceedings through a Facebook blog found herself charged with contempt of court.

When two of her children were removed from her care following a ruling by Judge Stephen Waine in August, she used her Facebook profile to rail against that decision by publishing the judgement and inviting 15 friends to comment.

She also criticised the judge and the children’s guardian, appointed to protect their interests. By revealing confidential details, and the identities of her children and their guardian, she breached the Administration of Justice Act 1960 and found herself in contempt of court and at risk of being jailed over Christmas.

The mother-of-four cannot be identified in the Chronicle & Echo to protect her children, under the same rules she ignored by posting eight blogs between August 30 and September 10.

Finding her in contempt of court, Judge Waine said: “I can readily understand it was a somewhat limited number of people and a limited number invited to access it. But the problem I can see from a series of Facebook entries is that ... they would be in a position of passing it on to anyone. Once they got to see it, she loses all control of it beyond that invited individual. I have to take the view that this matter is extremely serious and a prison sentence is absolutely inevitable. This is an increasingly common problem and needs to be stamped out.

“I have no wish for her to be in custody over Christmas. She has two other children.

“In all the circumstances, I am able to suspend the sentence.”

She was sentenced to 28 days’ imprisonment, suspended for 50 weeks and warned about any further breaches during forthcoming proceedings.

The judge added: “I do not accept her contention that she did this at a time of anger, distress, and frustration and feeling of loss although I do not doubt she suffered these emotions at the removal of her children.

She gave the matter a great deal of thought and care.

“I have no doubt these blogs were a deliberate and calculated act by the mother in this case. There is a clear and admitted contempt of court.”

Daniel Cooper, defending, said the mother had now offered a “fulsome apology”. He said: “She accepts she placed this blog on the internet and expresses her sincere regrets for doing so and apologises. This was not a public blog, only those invited to see it could do so. She accepts it was wrong and should not have done so. She states the publication was done at a low point and at a time when she was grieving the removal of her children.

“She has now removed them and apologises for their creation.”

Sentencing, Judge Waine said: “The mother has been critical in her blog about the (children’s) guardian and amount myself.

“I have broad shoulders and can accept that the difficult decision I had to make could cause great unhappiness to one or more of the parties. But it is not right the judge should be criticised in this way. If criticisms are justified then they should be made in the form of an appeal to a higher court.”