Thomas Jones acts for the Secretary of State in Re G

News

21/03/2023

Summary

In Re G (Disclosure of Fact-Finding to the Secretary of State for the Home Department) [2023] EWHC 450 (Fam), Knowles J sets out guidance for the disclosure of material within confidential family proceedings to the Secretary of State for the Home Department (‘SSHD’) where there are parallel asylum proceedings.

Facts

In October 2020, the mother and G travelled from country X to this jurisdiction. When she arrived, she claimed asylum. The father issued proceedings for the summary return of G back to his home country. In the context of the family proceedings, the court was invited to determine a number of factual disputes, some of which were relied upon by the mother in her claim for asylum. The court rejected that the mother had been the victim of domestic abuse or that G was a victim of serious physical and sexual abuse. The court found that the mother and G travelled from country X on passports which did not belong to them. The court found facts which were incompatible with the mother’s account of arrest and detention by state agents, which was an integral part of her asylum claim.

The question arose as to whether the judgment in the confidential family proceedings was disclosable to the SSHD and, if it was, whether the disclosure should happen immediately or following the welfare hearing.

Judgment

The court concluded that the fact-finding hearing should be disclosed to the SSHD immediately applying the principles Re EC (Disclosure of Material) [1996] 2 FLR 725. The court endorsed the approach that the family court should be wary of permitting the confidentiality which attaches to family proceedings to be used to conceal material and adverse findings about a party or their evidence from another public body such as the SSHD who has a direct, legitimate and undisputed interest in that material. The court stressed that, in the particular circumstances of this case, other factors such as G’s welfare are insufficiently decisive so as to prevent disclosure to the SSHD.

Comment

The Judgment confirms that there is no presumption in favour of disclosure to the SSHD in these circumstances and the correct approach continues to be to apply the principles in Re EC (Disclosure of Material) [1996] 2 FLR 725. The court noted that it is crucial that barriers should not be erected between the family court and other public bodies or agencies.

The judgment is available here.

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Thomas Jones

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