In Re C (A Child) 2008 – Court of Appeal clarification of Rule 10.20A(3) of the Family Proceedings Rules 1991 – Lord Justice Wilson heard a permission application by a father with regard to the disclosure of evidence filed in family proceedings to healthcare professionals involved in his son’s care.

The mother and father had been involved in longstanding family proceedings involving care arrangements for the child. Their child (the child), suffered from Asperger’s syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and was an in-patient at an adolescent mental health unit. The County Court judge hearing the case had allowed for the disclosure of the transcripts of four judgments from the proceedings to the consultant psychiatrist in charge of the child’s treatment and to the child’s GP as it was felt that it would assist in the treatment of the child. The court declined the father’s request to disclose witness statements made by him on the basis it contained his perception of the problems that had arisen with regard to his relationship with the child, a perception that was not shared by the child’s mother and as such could not be regarded by any professional as an agreed document or a document containing facts as found by the court. The father appealed this decision.

The father queried whether he would need the court’s permission to do this on the basis that Rule 10.20A(3) of the Family Proceedings Rules 1991 allowed the disclosure of documents without permission from the court. Rule 10.20A(3) provides that a party to family proceedings may disclose information to a healthcare professional to enable the party or their child to obtain healthcare or counselling.

Lord Justice Wilson held that:

  •  granting the father’s request for the disclosure of witness statements to clinicians, on the basis that the clinicians might be assisted by them would lead, in effect, to a general disclosure of all significant documents filed in the family court; this would be an abdication of the duty to consider in every case whether there were grounds for lifting the confidentiality that surrounded documents filed in such proceedings; and
  •  Rule 10.20A(3) did not entitle the documents to be sent to the child’s clinicians without permission from the court because the proposed disclosure would not be to enable the child to “obtain” treatment as he was already receiving treatment.