Restrictions on child’s access to mobile phones

Restrictions on child’s access to mobile phones

Manchester City Council v P (Refusal of Restrictions on Mobile Phone) [2023] EWHC 133 (Fam)

The Local Authority had a care order for the child aged 16 and had applied for an order under the inherent jurisdiction to authorise restrictions depriving the child of their liberty. The issue before the court was whether restrictions on the child’s mobile telephone, tablet, laptop and access to social media constituted deprivation of liberty under Article 5(1) ECHR (the right to liberty and security of person).

The judge refused to make an order depriving the child of her liberty on the basis that the restrictions on a child using their electronic devices is not a restriction of their “physical” liberty under Article 5(1) EHCR but rather the restriction of such electronic communications is to ensure the child’s physical and emotional safety.

If the child refused to surrender the devices, the Local Authority could apply for a further deprivation of liberty order to use restraint or other force to remove the devices, but that had not yet happened.

The judge commented more widely that the control, regulation and supervision of a child using their mobile phone or other devices is for the child’s parents or carers to determine when exercising their parental responsibility. Even for a child of 16, it is not unreasonable for a parent to seek to protect their child by confiscating or restricting that child’s use of devices. In this case, the Local Authority could exercise such parental responsibility under the care order.

The full case can be viewed here:

Maria Chainani is an associate in the family department specialising in representing parents, children and extended family members in care proceedings and private law children proceedings. Maria is contactable on 01268 240400