Council asked court for advice on police information

A local authority received information that a suspected drugs
supplier was living with a mother and child, but they were told
that they could not disclose the information to the family because
that might jeopardise a police operation and the life of a police
informant. The authority sought directions from the court as to the
extent to which it should disclose the information.

In re W (11 July 2003) Mr Justice Wall held that the authority
had a duty to investigate the issues to which the information
related, and to alert other parties in a way which did not breach
the confidentiality of the information. The mother needed to be
told the substance of the allegations.

Furthermore, the mother’s advisers should know the wider
picture, to be satisfied that the process had been fair. They
should see any evidence put before the court on their undertaking
not to pass information other than the substance of the allegations
without the court’s permission.

The lesson seems to be that in such sensitive cases directions
should be sought from the high court.

Richard White
White and Sherwin Solicitors

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