A Senior Social Worker has lost his case against SWE’s request to see a Family Court Judge’s ruling against him.
We previously reported that a senior social worker was found to have assaulted and abused an ex-part, but the judge in a private family court hearing refused to give Social Work England a copy of his ruling.
The man’s ex-partner has challenged that decision and asked a more senior High Court judge to rule that regulator Social Work England should get a copy. Mrs Justice Knowles was told how Judge Ahmed had concluded that the man had: assaulted his ex-partner and fractured her hand, causing “lasting disability”; behaved in a way that amounted to “gaslighting, control and denigration”; used his temper to “frighten and control” her; “humiliated” her; been “verbally abusive” to her in front of their child; and hit the family dog in front of their child.
In Z, Re (Disclosure To Social Work England: Findings of Domestic Abuse)  EWHC 447 (Fam) (02 March 2023), and reported byCommunity Care, Mrs Justice Knowles said, in determining whether and how to do so, courts needed to balance a range of factors, set out in the leading case on the issue, Re C (A Minor) (Care Proceedings: Disclosure) , which concerned disclosure from the family courts to the police. These included:
- the welfare and interests of the child or children concerned, with the likelihood of the child being “adversely affected by the order in any serious way” being “a very important factor”;
- the welfare and interests of other children generally;
- the maintenance of confidentiality in children’s cases;
- the importance of encouraging frankness in children’s cases;
- the public interest in the administration of justice, including not setting up barriers between different parts of the judicial system;
- the gravity of the alleged offence and its relevance to the investigation;
- the desirability of co-operation between different agencies concerned with the welfare of children.
This checklist has been applied in subsequent cases to the courts disclosing information to professional regulatory bodies. Also, drawing on subsequent case law, Mrs Justice Knowles said that she took references to the interests of children generally in the Re C checklist to apply to those of vulnerable adults, such as those the social worker worked with.
Mrs Justice Knowles found that Judge Ahmed had failed to consider the public interest in disclosing the fact-finding judgment to Social Work England given the importance of agencies concerned with the welfare of children and vulnerable adults co-operating with each other.
Furthermore, Mrs Justice Knowles said her fellow judge had failed to justify his position that the public interest in disclosure would be outweighed by serious harm to Z (their daughter), which she said “seriously undermined the balancing exercise required by Re C and rendered his decision unsafe”.
While disclosure would undoubtedly compromise Z’s confidentiality, the court could apply safeguards to protect her, by redacting identifying information. She also said that the financial impact of the social worker not being able to work was not sufficient to tip the balance towards concluding that Z would – in the words of Re C – be adversely affected by disclosure in a serious way.
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