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High Court debates child privacy

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March 28, 2024

A judge in the High Court has adjourned a case dealing with the privacy of a 15 year-old boy.

The teenager was the subject of care proceedings after being removed from his father’s home in December and placed with a foster family. Before any final decisions could be made about where he would live on a permanent basis, the boy “imparted some information to a social worker” and his court-appointed guardian. This information did not have anything to do with either of his parents or his stepmother. However, the boy “very strongly” asked for it to be kept from them.

The local authority felt they were “under a duty to reveal or disclose the information to both parents” despite the teenager’s wishes. His guardian disagreed and made an application for an order to prevent the local authority from doing so. A circuit judge made an interim order that the information could not be disclosed. The parents and stepmother were not invited to, nor were they informed that the private hearing at the circuit court was taking place. After making the temporary order, the circuit judge arranged a hearing at the High Court.

When Mr Justice Holman heard the case, he noted that the boy’s parents were once again not present. He expressed concern that if they were made aware of the fact that information about their son was being withheld, claims could be made of a “conspiracy theory”. The judge also noted that the parents “may start imagining that the information is more grave than [it] actually is”.

Mr Justice Holman ruled that he simply could not provide a definitive ruling on the guardian’s application. Therefore, he adjourned the hearing and ordered the entire case to be heard afresh in front of a different High Court Judge who has not already “ventured some provisional views on the substance of the matter”.

Read the full judgment here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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