The truly awful and tragic case of an estranged father who shot his daughter after her safe address was sent to him in correspondence from her mother's solicitor is appalling on so many levels.
Looking at this event through my legal PR lens, first and foremost, I would hope that the firm's risk management leader launched an immediate investigation into how such confidential information came to leave the firm and be sent to the father, with whom relations were already strained. Data protection and client protection should be sacrosanct in legal proceedings and this was clearly found wanting in this instance.
Add to this that the child's mother flagged the error to police five months before the tragic incident occurred in September 2015. One would hope that the law firm in question also flagged this to the police and social services as soon as it became aware of the error to help facilitate the continued safeguarding of the mother and child. The headlines of the case would suggest this hadn't happened.
Given the case appeared in the media this September, one would assume that the serious case review (SCR) had just been published by the Local Safeguarding Children's Board in East Sussex. No. It was actually published in March this year and, presumably, has sat on the local authority's website until it was 'unearthed' by the media earlier this month.
I would assume that the law firm, which erroneously sent on the safe address, prepared a media statement back in March in the event that it was identified in the media. It's basic PR to be prepared in the event of bad news. In fairness, the SCR said: "Although there is no evidence that these actions led the father to know where the family was living, they might have."
With passing months - and six months is a long time - the firm in question may have breathed a sigh of relief that its error had escaped public attention. As I write this, it has not been identified.
However, this case proves that bad news does not go away. Firms that find themselves, or their actions, at the centre of a negative report should at the very least be prepared to respond to the media - and other stakeholders - in the event that they are identified. They need to apologise, set out how the incident arose, what they have done to tighten up procedures to ensure that no human error has the potential to have such catastrophic consequences.
In fact, it was a period of some six months after details had been disclosed to him before the mother raised concern, and in that time there is evidence the father had still been using the internet to try to trace them.