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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk