Re X (Disclosure of Information): FD 2001

There cannot be an expectation that expert evidence given in a children’s court will always stay confidential. The various aspects of confidentiality will have greater or lesser weight on the facts of each case. Munby J: ‘Wrapped up in this concept of confidentiality there are, as it seems to me, a number of different factors and interests which need to be borne in mind:
(i) First, there is the interest of the particular child concerned in maintaining the confidentiality and privacy of the proceedings in which he has been involved, what . . Balcombe LJ referred to as the ‘curtain of privacy’.
(ii) But there is also, secondly, the interest of litigants generally that those who, to use Lord Shaw of Dunfermline’s famous words in Scott v Scott [1913] AC 417, 482, ‘appeal for the protection of the court in the case of [wards]’ should not thereby suffer ‘the consequence of placing in the light of publicity their truly domestic affairs’. It is very much in the interests of children generally that those who may wish to have recourse to the court in wardship or other proceedings relating to children are not deterred from doing so by the fear that their private affairs will be exposed to the public gaze – private affairs which often involve matters of the most intimate, personal, painful and potentially embarrassing nature. As Lord Shaw of Dunfermline said: ‘The affairs are truly private affairs; the transactions are transactions truly intra familiam’.
(iii) Thirdly, there is a public interest in encouraging frankness in children’s cases, what Nicholls LJ referred to in Brown v Matthews [1990] Ch 662, 681C, as the frank and ready co-operation from people as diverse as doctors, school teachers, neighbours, the child in question, the parents themselves, and other close relations, including other children in the same family, on which the proper functioning of the system depends . . it is very much in the interests of children generally that potential witnesses in such proceedings are not deterred from giving evidence by the fear that their private affairs or privately expressed views will be exposed to the public gaze.
(iv) Fourthly, there is a particular public interest in encouraging frankness in children’s cases on the part of perpetrators of child abuse of whatever kind . . .
(v) Finally, there is a public interest in preserving faith with those who have given evidence to the family court in the belief that it would remain confidential. However, as both Ralph Gibson LJ in Brown v Matthews [1990] Ch 662, 672B . . and Balcombe LJ in In re Manda [1993] Fam 183, 195H . . make clear, whilst persons who give evidence in child proceedings can normally assume that their evidence will remain confidential, they are not entitled to assume that it will remain confidential in all circumstances . . .’


Munby J


[2001] 2 FLR 440


England and Wales


CitedScott v Scott HL 5-May-1913
Presumption in Favour of Open Proceedings
There had been an unauthorised dissemination by the petitioner to third parties of the official shorthand writer’s notes of a nullity suit which had been heard in camera. An application was made for a committal for contempt.
Held: The House . .

Cited by:

CitedBritish Broadcasting Company v Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council and X and Y FD 24-Nov-2005
Application was made by the claimant for orders discharging an order made in 1991 to protect the identity of children and social workers embroiled in allegations of satanic sex abuse. The defendant opposed disclosure of the names of two social . .
CitedNorfolk County Council v Webster and others FD 1-Nov-2006
The claimants wished to claim that they were victims of a miscarriage of justice in the way the Council had dealt with care proceedings. They sought that the proceedings should be reported without the children being identified.
Held: A judge . .
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 . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Children, Media

Updated: 14 May 2022; Ref: scu.237482