A wealthy London-based Russian businessman who has been embroiled in a family court battle with his Ukrainian ex-wife over the care of their two daughters wants a judge to allow journalists to name names.
The businessman’s bid to lift reporting restrictions which bar reporters from revealing the identity of the people involved is being backed by editors at Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers, The Times, and the BBC.
Justice Mostyn has been told that the woman has taken the children to the Ukraine, in breach of an order he made last year.
Barristers Adam Wolanski, who is leading the businessman’s legal team, and Gervase de Wilde, who is representing editors, outlined detailed arguments to Justice Mostyn at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London on Monday.
The businessman’s ex-wife objects and says publicity which includes names will harm their children.
De Wilde told the judge the case raised issues of public interest which should be given a “substantial public airing”.
The “human aspect” of the story of a father whose children had been “abducted” to a foreign country ought to be “properly ventilated”, he said.
There was also a public interest in describing the involvement of the woman’s father, a Ukrainian businessman, he added, adding that the ex-wife had instructed an “army of expensive lawyers” to fight the case for her.
Lord Pannick QC, for the wife, says public interest arguments are “marginal”.
He says the welfare of the children has to be the judge’s focus and says there is a “real risk” that publicity will harm them.
Detail of the case first emerged in a ruling published by Justice Mostyn in April 2018.
The woman, who is also a wealthy businesswoman and had lived with the children in London, wanted to move to Kiev to live with her new fiance.
But Justice Mostyn, who had analysed the case at a private family court hearing in London, ruled that the that the youngsters should stay in London and see their father frequently.
The judge said neither the children, who were then aged five and two, nor their parents, could be identified in media reports.
He said the pair met in Vienna in 2010, married in Ukraine in 2012, and had lived in Hampstead. Their marriage had ended in 2015.
The businessman had stayed at their home and the woman had moved to a £9m property a few minutes away. Both had developed new relationships.
The businessman had told Justice Mostyn that it was “unsafe” for him to travel to Ukraine.
He thought that his ex-wife’s father “wanted to hurt him” and could “easily” do so.
Lord Pannick told the judge yesterday that the mother believed that exposing the case to public gaze would not be in the children’s interests – and that she would not be “moved” by the threat of publicity.
The children’s interests were the “paramount consideration”, Lord Pannick said, adding: “It’s going to be much more difficult to resolve this dispute if publicity occurs.
“It’s very much in the interests of the children that the battle between their mother and their father about their upbringing is not exposed to the public gaze.”
He added: “The mother is not going to be moved by the threat of publicity. She is in clear defiance of the court’s order, and I don’t condone that for a moment. Her defiance of court orders demonstrates her determination to remain in Ukraine with the children.”