In re A (A Child): SC 12 Dec 2012

A woman, X, had made an allegation in confidence she had been sexually assaulted as a child. The court was asked whether that confidence could be overriden to allow an investigation to protect if necessary a child still living with the man. Evidence suggested that a disclosure of her complaint may cause X further damage.
Held: In the particular circumstances now prevailing, and where there was sufficient support available to X to minimise the risks to her, disclosure was ordered.
‘If we were dealing with the common law principles alone, the answer would be clear. There is an important public interest in preserving the confidence of people who come forward with allegations of child abuse. The system depends upon the public as its eyes and ears. The social workers cannot be everywhere. The public should be encouraged to take an interest in the welfare of the children in their neighbourhoods. It is part of responsible citizenship to do so. And that includes victims of historic child abuse who have information about the risks to which other children may now be exposed.
But many of these informants will not be required to give evidence in order to prove a case, whether in criminal or care proceedings, against the perpetrators of any abuse. Their information will simply trigger an investigation from which other evidence will emerge. Their confidence can be preserved without harming others. In this case, however, that is simply not possible. We do not know whether A is at risk of harm from her father. But we do know of allegations, which some professionals think credible and which would, at the very least, raise the serious possibility of such a risk. Those allegations have to be properly investigated and tested so that A can either be protected from any risk of harm which her father may present to her or can resume her normal relationship with him. That simply cannot be done without disclosing to the parents and to the Children’s Guardian the identity of X and the detail and history of the allegations which she has made. The mother can have no basis for seeking to vary the arrangements for A to have contact with her father unless this is done. If this were an ordinary public interest immunity claim, therefore, there would be no question where the balance of public interest would lie.’

Lord Neuberger, President, Lady Hale, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed
[2012] UKSC 60, UKSC 2012/0193, [2012] 3 WLR 1484, [2013] 1 FCR 69, [2013] Fam Law 269, [2013] 2 AC 66, [2013] BLGR 179, [2013] 1 All ER 761, [2012] WLR(D) 378, [2013] HRLR 11
Bailii, SC Summary, SC, Bailii Summary, WLRD
England and Wales
CitedA, Re (Disclosure of Third Party Information) FD 16-Feb-2012
The mother and father disputed contact. It was known that a third party had made a confidential allegation of sexual abuse against the father. Disclosure was sought. The application was resisted on the basis that the woman’s own health would be . .
First AppealIn re X CA 24-Jul-2012
X had made, in confidence, an allegation that she had been abused as a child. The alleged perpetrator was now in another relationship, and with children. X resisted the disclosure of her complaint.
Held: An order was made for disclosure. There . .
Appeal fromIn re J (A Child: Disclosure) CA 21-Sep-2012
X had complained in confidence of an alleged assault by the father of A. Social services had wished to include that disclosure in an investigation of J’s care of A. . .
CitedIn re K (Infants) ChD 1963
Ungoed Thomas J discussed the balance of interests in a wardship case, as it affected disclosure of documents: ‘However, where the paramount purpose is the welfare of the infant, the procedure and rules of evidence should serve and certainly not . .
CitedIn Re K (Infants); Official Solicitor v K HL 2-Jan-1963
The House considered the propriety of a tribunal chairman seeing material not placed before the parties. This was a wardship case.
Held: Where the interests of the parents and the child conflicted, ‘the welfare of the child must dominate’.
CitedConway v Rimmer HL 28-Feb-1968
Crown Privilege for Documents held by the Polie
The plaintiff probationary police constable had been investigated, prosecuted and cleared of an allegation of theft. He now claimed damages for malicious prosecution, and in the course of the action, sought disclosure of five documents, but these . .
CitedD v National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children HL 2-Feb-1977
Immunity from disclosure of their identity should be given to those who gave information about neglect or ill treatment of children to a local authority or the NSPCC similar to that which the law allowed to police informers.
Lord Simon of . .
MentionedHerczegfalvy v Austria ECHR 24-Sep-1992
The applicant was detained in an institution for mentally deranged offenders. While so detained he was subjected to the forcible administration of food and neuroleptics and to handcuffing to a security bed. He complained of violation of his Article . .
CitedRe D (Minors) (Adoption Reports: Confidentiality) HL 1-Sep-1995
The House considered whether it was right for a tribunal to see and rely upon papers not disclosed to the parties. Lord Mustill said: ‘a first principle of fairness that each party to a judicial process shall have an opportunity to answer by . .
CitedOsman v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-Oct-1998
Police’s Complete Immunity was Too Wide
(Grand Chamber) A male teacher developed an obsession with a male pupil. He changed his name by deed poll to the pupil’s surname. He was required to teach at another school. The pupil’s family’s property was subjected to numerous acts of vandalism, . .
CitedKudla v Poland ECHR 26-Oct-2000
Just what treatment is sufficiently severe to reach the high threshold required for a violation of article 3 ‘depends on all the circumstances of the case, such as the nature and context of the treatment, the manner and method of its execution, its . .
CitedPorter and Weeks v Magill HL 13-Dec-2001
Councillors Liable for Unlawful Purposes Use
The defendant local councillors were accused of having sold rather than let council houses in order to encourage an electorate which would be more likely to be supportive of their political party. They had been advised that the policy would be . .
CitedBerg v IML London Ltd 2002
A judge should recuse himself in a civil case only if, subjectively, he considered that the knowledge he acquired of privileged communications disabled him from fairly continuing with the case or, objectively, a fair-minded and informed observer . .
CitedA Mother v A Father; A Local Authority v A CA 14-Oct-2009
Care proceedings were under way. The mother objected to the disclosure of certain materials to the father, saying that they were extremely sensitive, and would threaten her relationship with him. She appealed against an order allowing it.
CitedJuhnke v Turkey ECHR 13-May-2008
Medical treatment, may well be experienced as degrading by a patient who is subjected to it against his will, but ‘A measure which is therapeutically necessary from the point of view of established principles of medicine cannot in principle be . .

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Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.467052