Local authority pays damages after transgender boy’s privacy breached

A local authority employee shared information with friends of the boy's adoptive parents, despite a court order blocking it

Court decisions
Photo: tashatuvango/Fotolia

A local authority has paid almost £5,000 to a transgender boy whose right to a private life was broken by an employee.

The 17-year-old, who was born a girl, was an adopted child but his relationship with his adoptive parents “completely broke down” after he told them he wanted to change sex.

“Matters continued to deteriorate to the extent that [he] did not want his adoptive parents to be involved in his life nor to receive any information about him including any medical treatment he may undergo,” the judgment said.

Barred from sharing information

After the relationship with his adoptive parents broke, he entered foster care under a section 20 arrangement. He later moved to a local authority unit for semi-independent living.

A judge made him a ward of court, and made an order preventing the local authority from sharing any information with his adoptive parents. However, a local authority employee disclosed personal information to friends of his adoptive parents. The position of the employee was not revealed in the court judgement.

The information disclosed included his forename and transgender status. He was originally told that the address of the unit where he was living had also been shared, but this was not proven. The local authority asserted that the information was not passed on to his adoptive parents.

“The impact of this wrongful disclosure on [him] was immediate and dramatic. He felt unsafe at the unit and left. He first stayed with his girlfriend and then at a number of residential units provided by the local authority. [His] mental health was very severely compromised: he made a number of suicide attempts and there were several episodes of self-harm,” the judgment added.

Damages

The local authority “promptly” told him of the disclosure, but the judge felt it was slow in giving him a full account of what happened, and an unreserved apology.

The employee was suspended and underwent formal investigation by the local authority, but the outcome of this was not known to the court.

After admitting it was at fault and had breached the boy’s article 8 rights to a private life, the local authority agreed to pay £4,750 in damages, and the cost of all but the last hearing which principally concerned issues between the boy and the Legal Aid Agency.

 

4 Responses to Local authority pays damages after transgender boy’s privacy breached

  1. Daniel Dawson November 23, 2016 at 11:15 pm #

    Hey, if you’re reporting on transgender people, you don’t need to clarify that they were born different to your understanding of gender. Sex and Gender aren’t the same thing and as social workers we need to catch up on the shift in gender discourse and respect that penis doesn’t equal male, vulva doesn’t equal female. This boy wasn’t born a girl, his gender is male and therefore he’s always been male.

  2. Ilanit November 24, 2016 at 11:25 am #

    He deserves more than £5000 compensation after such a blatant breach of confidentiality and the long lasting damage and emotional distress caused as a result.

  3. Transally November 28, 2016 at 7:50 pm #

    The recent Women and Equalities Committee Report on Transgender Equality noted a “lack of sufficient understanding of transgender issues by professionals in the public sector”. It recommended (recommendation 35) the “Appropriate training of public sector professionals on gender identity issues’.

    The government response to this – that ‘Individual professions are best placed to determine the detail of training needed” is weak, and will not sufficiently tackle the ignorance, if not outright transphobic practice shown by some public sector employees.