THE true cost of a taxpayer-funded High Court gagging order which would have suppressed Poppi Worthington’s name for 15 years topped £12,000, it has emerged

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Little Poppi Worthington, from Barrow, died aged just 13 months in December 2012 following an alleged serious sexual assault at the hands of her father, Paul Worthington, a judge ruled in January.

Cumbria County Council - the authority that sought the secrecy clause as part of care proceedings for Poppi's siblings - had previously insisted that money spent on attempting to suppress the name of the toddler from the public domain until 2028 was just £780. But the actual price tag of the secrecy order was £12,271, the Evening Mail can finally reveal.

The real figure was eventually obtained using the Freedom of Information Act after communications experts within the authority refused to provide the sum on request.

Attempts by the authority to keep the exact amount spent on the reporting restriction order under wraps were criticised by the authority's opposition leader, councillor James Airey.

Cllr Airey said: "It's unacceptable - they are a publicly accountable body.

"First of all, they shouldn't be spending taxpayers' money to hide information from the public. But these highly-paid council officers also have a duty to be responsible and honest with information requested in the public interest, not to hide it behind closed doors," Cllr Airey added.

The money was used to fund a team of top lawyers to represent the county council's interests at three court challenges and appeals to the superinjunction over a 12-month period.

It included an £11,250 bill for two top-ranking barristers to act on behalf of the authority at the Court of Appeal, in London, during a challenge to the reporting restriction order on November 2, 2015.

The total amount contributes to an overall CCC legal bill of £198,500 spent on issues relating to care proceedings for Poppi's remaining siblings.

Papers show that officials within the authority initially applied for the media blackout in June 2014 after High Court family judge, Mr Justice Jackson, criticised them for failing to take any adequate steps to protect Poppi's siblings for ten months after her death.

Mr Justice Jackson went on to describe the application as being 'scattergun' in its approach and not in the public interest.

A spokesman for the authority said it had accepted the opinion of the judge, adding it had subsequently made no objections to the lifting of the secrecy order.

"We immediately acknowledged to the court that our original application for a Reporting Restriction Order (RRO) in July 2014 was too wide ranging and we accepted the judge’s decision to narrow its scope.

"The original Freedom of Information request from the North West Evening Mail asked for costs related to this application. This cost was around £700.

"The subsequent Freedom of Information request asked for the total of all and any legal and administrative costs incurred by Cumbria County Council in relation to the RRO from July 2014 to date - this cost was £12,200."

The spokesman added: "Cumbria County Council’s only intention throughout this process has been to protect the identity of Poppi’s siblings."

The application for a reporting restriction order was said to have been sanctioned by a lone, mid-ranking council officer - Lyn Burns, former assistant director for children and families - without ever being referred to CCC's director for children's services or to its chief executive Diane Wood.

Just last month, the Evening Mail also revealed that no social workers have ever been disciplined or sacked for their failings in the case.

Mr Worthington denies any wrongdoing in relation to his daughter.

County council leader Stewart Young was contacted by the Evening Mail for comment but did not respond.