CASE SUMMARIES: 10 February 1997

The following notes of judgments were prepared by the reporters of the All England Law Reports.

Adoption

Re L (adoption; disclosure of information); CA (Sir Stephen Brown P, Pill LJ, Sir Patrick Russell); 12 Dec 1996.

Dismissing an application for judicial review of a refusal to disclose information held on the adoption register to the natural mother of a daughter 36 years after the latter's adoption, the court drew attention to the mandatory nature of the Registrar-General's duty under s 50 (5) of the Adoption Act 1976. Although an adopted person could make enquiries, there was no corresponding provision for a natural parent to obtain such information. However, in exercising its discretion to make a disclosure order, the court should use its power sparingly and only in exceptional circumstances.

Andrew McFarlane (Mishcon de Reya) for the applicant; Lord Meston QC (Department of Health).

Health and safety

R v Gateways Foodmarkets Ltd; CA (Cr Div) (Evans LJ, Ebsworth, Keene JJ) 19 Dec 1996.

The offence under s 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 was one of strict liability, subject to the caveat of reasonable practicability. A company was guilty of an offence under s 2(1) if it failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of any employee, unless all reasonable precautions had been "taken by the company or on its behalf". The breach of duty and liability under the section did not depend on any failure of the company itself, meaning those persons who embodied the company, to take reasonable precautions.

Ian Glen QC, Anthony Reddiford (Andrew Gregg & Co, Sheffield) for the company; Ian Groom (Mark H Webster, Sheffield) for the Crown.

Medical consent

Re L (a patient: non-consensual treatment); Fam D (Kirkwood J) 13 Dec 1996.

An NHS Hospital trust was permitted to insert needles for the purposes of anaesthesia and intravenous infusion and to perform an emergency caesarian section operation on a hospital patient whose extreme phobia about needles rendered her unable to consent to the procedures necessary to enable her to be safely delivered of her unborn child and without which her own health and well-being would have been put in jeopardy. Granting a declaration as to the lawfulness of the proposed procedures, the judge ruled that that the patient lacked the mental competence to make the treatment decisions herself.

Robert Francic QC (Le Brasseur and J Tickle) for the Hospital; Michael Hinchcliffe (Official Solicitor) as amicus curiae.

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