President of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, Stockport based Peter Garsden, has today welcomed a Court of Appeal ruling which he believes will have national implications for all local authorities defending child abuse compensation claims. It is a landmark decision that will have national implications in all child abuse cases.

Until now, when lawyers have requested personal records to support allegations of abuse in local authority managed homes, as well as tracking the possible psychological damage to the client as a result, local authorities have routinely removed any third-party information.  This has resulted in evidence that could be used to corroborate the abuse being hidden, particularly where the names of vital witnesses have been deliberately masked out with black highlighter/redacted.

Today’s judgement found in favour of Mr Dunn and his right to a fair trial.  Following the ruling, lawyers pursuing claims will be able to access full records without the names of valuable witnesses being deliberately masked out/redacted.

Previously, lawyers have been denied access to the names of witnesses because of the privacy laws surrounding data protection. This has meant that, at great expense to Local Authorities, teams of data experts had to go through reims of records, in order to mask out any third party names before handing them over. This landmark ruling means that in legal cases, this will not be necessary any more, thus saving cash strapped local authorities millions of pounds, and better access to justice.

In an age of austerity this will be welcome news to local authorities trying to save money.

The Court of Appeal based their decision upon articles 6 and 8 of the Human Rights Act which insists upon the right to a fair trial balanced against the right to privacy. The decision came down on the side of transparency and openness so as to avoid any cover ups of evidence. This decision will help all other victims of abuse, who are trying to uncover the names of vital witnesses in records, which previously have remained hidden.

Peter Garsden, Principal of QualitySolicitors Abney Garsden and president of ACAL (Association of Child Abuse Lawyers) said: “I am encouraged by the backing that the courts have given to full and open disclosure of the names of witnesses in this case because without such details I would not have been able to fight for my client’s rights.  This is a groundbreaking decision and will have national implications for all local authorities.  It will mean that legal teams will be able to see all the evidence without the removal of names.”

If you are a member of ACAL, you can read our summary of the case here. If you are not a member and would like to join - go to our application page here.