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Transgender teen receives thousands for breach of privacy

A transgender teen has been awarded more than £4500 in compensation after a local authority leaked confidential information about him.

The case concerned a 17 year-old referred to in the judgement as ‘P’. He was born female but during his teens decided to live life as a male, and was consequently diagnosed with’ gender dysphoria’: the belief that a person’s actual gender is different to their biological one. As a result of his announcement, P’s relationship with his adoptive parents broke down completely and he moved to live with foster carers, in a placement arranged by the local authority.

His adoptive parents continued to take an interest in his life but P was adamantly against this. The matter went to court where the teen opposed even a modest application by the couple for quarterly updates on his life.

Mr Justice Keehan ruled in favour of the teen but expressed the firm hope that he would one day reconcile with his former parents. In a new ruling on the same case the Judge explained that the case had involved a clash between the parents’ and teen’s Article 8 rights. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights covers respect for “private and family life”.

“I granted the declaratory relief [legal declaration] sought by P on the ground that the balance between P’s Article 8 rights and the adoptive parents’ Article 8 rights fell decisively in favour of P’s very strongly held wishes and feelings. The order sought was manifestly in P’s welfare best interests.”

He described P as:

“…a vulnerable young person with a history of repeated episodes of self harm, taking overdoses and extremely poor mental health.”

In January of this year, an unspecified employee of the local authority wrongfully gave confidential details relating to P to friends of his adoptive parents. The council quickly admitted the information leak to P. He had moved to a semi-independent housing unit run by the authority a few months before, and believing that his adoptive parents now knew where he lived, the teen immediately left, initially moving to stay with his girlfriend and later into other local authority housing.

It later emerged that the information leak had actually not included his address. However P brought a human rights claim against the council – again in reference to his Article 8 rights.

The Judge explained:

“The member of staff who made the wrongful disclosure was suspended by the local authority and a formal investigation was undertaken pursuant to the council’s disciplinary policy.”

However the council had been slow to issue a full and unreserved apology to P or fully explain the circumstances of the information leak.

Once the legal proceedings began the authority quickly admitted liability and “decided to concede it had, by the inexcusable actions of one of its employees, breached P’s Article 8 rights to respect for his family and private life.”

They agreed to pay £4750 in compensation, a sum described by Mr Justice Keehan as an “appropriate level of damages” given “the very considerable distress suffered by P and the immediate adverse impact on his mental health”.

He explained that:

“It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right: [section] 6(1) Human Rights Act 1998… A person who claims that a public authority has acted in a way which is made unlawful by [section] 6(1) may (a) bring proceedings against the authority under this Act.”

The full judgement is available 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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