The process of disclosure of confidential material is governed by rules and protocols and sometimes the approval of the Court is required. The main objective is to set up an exchange of information and for full co-operation between the authorities involved in child protection matters and in bringing cases to the Court concerning child abuse.
The approval of the Court is not needed where information is shared in the context of the proceedings to provide advice or assistance to a child of party to the proceedings. For example, a party can share information to a health care professional or a person or body providing counselling services for children or families.
It is however important that the purpose of sharing the information is clear. This type of disclosure is governed by Practice Direction 12:
If you require legal representation in relation to a Child Protection matter our team at Emery Johnson Astills may be able to assist.
In relation to the question posed ‘Can you disclose confidential information arising out of Care Proceedings to other agencies such as the police?’ The leading case is RE EC (Disclosure of Material) . In this case the Court set out factors to help determine whether or not information arising out of Care Proceedings should and can be disclosed.
The factors include:
- The welfare and interests of the child concerned in the Care Proceedings. If the child is likely to be affected by an Order for disclosure in a serious way then this is an important factor;
- The welfare and interests of other children generally;
- The issue of maintaining confidentiality in children cases;
- The importance of encouraging frankness in children cases;
- The public interest in the administration of justice;
- The public interest in the prosecution of serious crime and punishment of offenders including the public interest in convicting those who have been guilty of violent or sexual offences against children. There is a strong public interest in making available material to the police which is relevant to a criminal trial and in many cases this will be an important factor.
- The seriousness of the offence alleged and relevance of the evidence. If the evidence has little or no relevance on the investigation or the trial then it is unlikely that the Court will approve a Disclosure Order;
- The desirability of co-operation between the agencies concerned with the welfare of the child concerned including the social services departments, the police service, medical practitioners, health visitors and school and,
- Any other material disclosure which has already taken place.
The Court is required to consider each point in turn and apply them to the facts of the case. Cases after RE EC suggest that the Courts have a tendency to approve the disclosure of information to the police.
If the police make an application for disclosure for the purposes of bringing a criminal prosecution it is important that this is stated in the Court Order giving permission to the Chief Constable of the relevant police force to disclose material to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The Order will also provide for the CPS to disclose the information they receive from the police to the Defence and complies with their disclosure rules set out in the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 to use material in evidence at the criminal proceedings.
If you require legal representation in relation to a Child Protection matter our team at Emery Johnson Astills may be able to assist. Please do not hesitate to call our Child Law Team at Emery Johnson Astills on 0116 255 4855 (Leicester office) or 0150 961 0312 (Loughborough office).