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Freedom of press 'most fundamental right' in a democracy, judge says

Published 22/06/2016

Mr Justice Holman questioned whether people understood the 'gravity' of court orders which limited what journalists could report
Mr Justice Holman questioned whether people understood the 'gravity' of court orders which limited what journalists could report

Press freedom is the "most fundamental right" in a democratic society, a High Court judge who specialises in family litigation has told lawyers.

Mr Justice Holman questioned whether people understood the "gravity" of court orders which limited what journalists could report.

The judge suggested lawyers should think about where society would be without reporters and a free press.

He outlined his thoughts at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court after lawyers representing the London Borough of Barnet asked him to make orders barring journalists from naming a number of children in local authority care.

Lawyers said the children's mother was featuring in criminal proceedings - and her case might attract publicity.

They said Barnet Council wanted to protect the children and ensure their human right to respect for private and family life was not breached.

Mr Justice Holman made a "reporting restriction order" barring the children from being named in reports about their mother's case.

But he said the woman could be named.

He told lawyers: "The most fundamental right in a democratic society is the freedom of the press. I don't think people understand the gravity of a reporting restriction order."

Mr Justice Holman said the public could read "about anything and everything" in newspapers.

"You can pick up your newspapers today," he said. "You can read any volume of material - about anything and everything."

He added: "Where would we be without (a reporter) and the whole freedom of the press behind him? This is very, very important."

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