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Family Law

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14 MAY 2007

FAMILY PROCEEDINGS: Re R (Secure Editing of Documents)

(Family Division; Peter Jackson QC sitting as a Deputy High Court judge; 14 April 2007)

It was the court's responsibility to ensure that confidential information was not given out as a side effect of legal proceedings. In the instant case there had been a gross breach of the mother's right to respect for her private and family life, in that notwithstanding an order that all contact details were to be omitted from any documents filed and served on the father, who had been registered at Level 3 under the Multi-Agency Public Protection arrangements, the father had been served with documents containing the mother's mobile phone number, her new surname and her new address. The President of the Family Division had approved the following procedure wherever confidential information was to be protected. The court was to identify any case in this category, making a clear statement that special restrictions applied to the case, and directing that information shall not be contained in any document (not merely allow the information to be withheld), taking care not to make unnecessarily wide orders for documentary disclosure because of the difficulty of editing large amounts of documentation accurately. The court should also spell out the chain of possession so that one appropriately selected party gathered the documents and released them only after careful checking; responsibility for the process should be given to one or more named individuals, such as the guardian's solicitor (the solicitor for the protected party could be given the opportunity to check the edited documents before they were sent); the editing/checking task ought to be carried out by someone with knowledge of the case, including the details of the information to be protected, and of the importance of the task, which was not an administrative one.

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