LAW REPORT : Confession in care case confidential

Oxfordshire County Council v P (a minor).

Family Division (Mr Justice Ward).

20 January 1995.

Admissions by a mother about her child's injuries to the guardian ad litem in care proceedings were confidential and could not be disclosed to the police without the leave of the court.

Mr Justice Ward terminated the appointment of the guardian ad litem.

Care proceedings were commenced and the guardian ad litem appointed under the Children Act 1989 when a 12-week-old baby was referred to hospital with non-accidental injuries.

The mother made admissions to the guardian ad litem who informed the social services department and the court in writing. The social services department informed the police who obtained a witness statement from the guardian ad litem attesting to the admissions.

The Crown Prosecution Service wished to rely on the guardian ad litem's statement to prove criminal charges against the mother. The mother was now reluctant to be fully frank in the care proceedings and asked for the guardian ad litem to be removed.

Frances Judd (County Solicitor) for the council; Jonathan Baker (Quiney Chamberlain) for the parents; Patrick Smith (solicitor) for the guardian ad litem; Richard Bond (Official Solicitor) as amicus curiae.

MR JUSTICE WARD said that under the Children Act and rules, the guardian's report and the guardian's letter to the court were protected from disclosure.

There was a duty on all parties to make full and frank disclosure of all matters material to the welfare of children whether those matters were favourable to or adverse to their own particular case. The parties and their advisers were under a duty to thecourt to be full and frank in dealing with the check-list factors in section 1(3).

Section 98, which dealt with self-incrimination, should be construed so that the oral admission made by the mother to the guardian ad litem must be privileged because it was made to the guardian ad litem who was appointed by the court and under a duty toinvestigate for the court and was therefore an admission made in care proceedings.

It was in the public interest that candour be encouraged. There was clear authority that the proceedings in wardship were confidential and confidentiality covered reports, statement, proofs of evidence, documents filed and evidence given. The same treatment should be accorded to proceedings under the Children Act.

Therefore, the police were wrong to seek to make use of the admissions made to the guardian ad litem and the guardian ad litem was wrong to make a witness statement without either or both of them first having sought the leave of the court for that disclosure to be made. The mother spoke to the guardian ad litem in confidence. The confidentiality was not the guardian ad litem's to dispense with: the confidentiality was the court's. Leave should be obtained by guardians or the police if ever they were in doubt.

It was hoped that a practice could be quickly developed permitting the free exchange of information between the social services and the police but on a basis that the information was treated by the police as confidential and might be used for investigation into criminal offences but not as evidence in any criminal proceedings that might follow, and if the police wished to use as evidence information arising in care proceedings, they must seek the court's leave.

Ying Hui Tan, Barrister

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world