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Protection for contempt of court mother 'ludicrously over the top'

A campaigner has criticised a family court judge who ruled that the identity of a Polish woman found to be in contempt of court after her teenage daughter was taken into care must remain a world-wide secret.

Judge Simon Oliver has barred journalists inside and outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales from revealing the woman's name in reports of her case.

He said his aim was to protect the woman's daughter - who has been at the centre of family court proceedings - and ensure that the youngster's name did not emerge in an information jigsaw.

But former Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who campaigns for improvements in the family justice system, said reporters should be able to name the woman.

He said the reporting restriction order would be impossible to enforce abroad and did not give enough weight to the public's right to know.

Judge Oliver imposed the global identity ban after a public family court hearing in Reading, Berkshire, on Friday.

He concluded that the woman had wrongly revealed detail of her daughter's circumstances in an interview with a Polish journalist.

Information had emerged on the internet and evidence showed that publication had distressed the girl, he said.

The judge said he feared that the woman would generate more publicity and cause her daughter further emotional harm.

He said if the woman spoke to foreign journalists information could rebound to England via the internet.

Social services bosses at Oxfordshire County Council said the woman was told not to discuss her daughter's case and accused her of being in contempt.

Council lawyers said they did not want to see the woman jailed but wanted her to stop making detail of her daughter's case public.

Judge Oliver told the woman that he had the power to jail her for being in contempt.

But he imposed no punishment, saying he thought she had suffered enough by losing contact with her daughter.

"The reporting restriction order is ludicrously over the top," said Mr Hemming.

"Judges should not make orders they cannot enforce - and how can this possibly be enforced abroad?

"This woman has been found guilty of contempt at a public court hearing.

"She could have been jailed.

"The public have a right to know the names of people convicted of wrongdoing in public courts. "

Mr Hemming added: "The judge is worried about the effects of publicity on the child - but the order itself will generate publicity.

He went on: "This woman should never have been facing the threat of jail anyway. She's a mother who's angry because her child has been taken away - not a criminal.

"Surely social services managers can manage these situations without having to threaten jail."

Judge Oliver said there was a need for transparency in family courts.

He said world-wide reporting restriction orders were unusual b ut he wanted to protect the teenager.

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