In re S (Minors) (Wardship: Police Investigation); Re S (Minors) (Wardship: Disclosure of Material): FD 1987

Local authority case records and a verbatim extract from the case records which had been exhibited to an affidavit from a social worker had been disclosed.
Held: Booth J asked as to the case records: ‘whether the words in the section ‘information relating to proceedings’ should be construed to cover documents which do not themselves form part of the evidence but which contain information upon which evidence was based’ She held not: ‘I am satisfied that so far as the case records do not relate to matters which were placed in evidence before the court, there could be no basis upon which the court could, or should, give the local authority any directions as to their use . . I have been less clear as to the position with regard to those case records upon which evidence placed before the court was based, although they do not of themselves form part of that evidence. Undoubtedly, such records continue to be protected from disclosure by reason of the principle of public interest immunity: see In re S. and W. (Minors) (Confidential Reports) (1983) 4 FLR 290. Although the court has the statutory right and duty to protect a child by means of its control over information relating to proceedings heard in private, this must be balanced against the right of the local authority to preserve the confidentiality of its records and thereby to control access to them.
Since confidentiality in the records could not be considered to have been waived by reason only of the fact that they have been relied upon as the foundation for the social workers’ evidence, I have come to the conclusion that those records also do not fall within the ambit of section 12(1) of the Administration of Justice Act 1960. To come to the contrary decision could have the effect of placing an unrealistic fetter upon the local authority in the course of their day-to-day use of their records’.
As to the verbatim extract from the affidavit: ‘So it is still necessary to seek directions from the court whenever it is proposed to take a major step in the lives of the wards.
In my judgment, the disclosure to the police of the medical records and recordings for the purpose of criminal investigations falls into this category of decision . . the effect of granting the application could be far reaching. Indeed, the result of it could lead to the direct involvement of the ward in criminal proceedings, a fact which could be regarded as detrimental to his or her interests. It is, therefore, clearly a step of considerable importance in the life of any child. Similarly, if the police are to interview and conduct medical examinations of the wards then leave of the court must first be given. Such medical examinations do not have a therapeutic purpose, but a forensic purpose and, as in the case of the disclosure of the medical records and the video recordings, they may lead to the wards’ direct involvement in subsequent proceedings. But if leave is given for the disclosure of those records and video recordings it seems to me that it must follow that leave must also be given to the police to conduct interviews with and, if necessary, examinations of, the wards. Having enabled the police to start upon an inquiry it would not be realistic, save in exceptional and presently unforeseen circumstances, to impose such limits upon them.’
And: ‘In my judgment, a distinction must be made with regard to the verbatim extract from the case records, which in this case was exhibited to an affidavit made by a social worker. This exhibit was disclosed and filed by the local authority as part of its evidence to the court. Confidentiality in respect of this part of the case records has clearly been waived. The exhibit undoubtedly contains information relating to the proceedings since it constitutes a part of the evidence. I am satisfied that for this reason the extract of the case records comes within the ambit of section 12(1) of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 and that its publication is precluded without leave of the court.’


Booth J


[1988] 1 FLR 1, [1987] Fam 199


Administration of Justice Act 1960 12


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedDoctor A and Others v Ward and Another FD 8-Jan-2010
Parents wished to publicise the way care proceedings had been handled, naming the doctors, social workers and experts some of whom had been criticised. Their names had been shown as initials so far, and interim contra mundum orders had been made . .
CitedRe A Ward of Court FD 4-May-2017
Ward has no extra privilege from Police Interview
The court considered the need to apply to court in respect of the care of a ward of the court when the Security services needed to investigate possible terrorist involvement of her and of her contacts. Application was made for a declaration as to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Family, Children

Updated: 05 May 2022; Ref: scu.401610