In the Media

Court 'trampled over' rights of victim

PUBLISHED July 5, 2006

Two senior judges strongly condemned a lower court yesterday for pressuring a vulnerable girl to allow her medical records to be disclosed to a man accused of sexually abusing her.

The 14-year-old, who had a history of self-harm and attempted suicide, consented reluctantly after being told that the man's trial, in which she was the main witness, would otherwise be delayed.

The man's defence was that the teenager had a crush on him and that her allegations were fantasy. His lawyers successfully applied to Stafford Crown Court for an order requiring South Staffordshire NHS Trust to hand over her psychiatric record, which, it was thought, might undermine her credibility.

The man was eventually convicted but lawyers for the girl, now 15, sought a High Court declaration that the crown court acted unlawfully.

Lord Justice May, sitting in London with Mr Justice Forbes, said that he "strongly deprecated" what had happened to the girl. The crown court had been "invited to trample on her rights of privacy and confidentiality".

Granting the declaration, Lord Justice May said: "It seems to me quite unacceptable for a vulnerable 14-year-old schoolgirl to be faced personally with an apparent choice between agreeing to the disclosure of her psychiatric records or delaying a trial which was bound to cause her concern and stress."