High Court continues clinician privacy injunctions in end of life cases.


Re: Abbasi v Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation [2021] EWHC 1699 (Fam)

Two end of life cases were before the President of the Family Division. In each the child had died, in one after a determination that life-support should be withdrawn and in the other before the court could rule. Contra mundum privacy injunctions were in place from the outset of the inherent jurisdiction proceedings to protect the caring staff at the two hospitals (and other clinicians involved as experts) from identification online and in the mainstream media. The underlying concern was the targeting and harassment of staff seen in the Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans cases.

The parents applied to discharge the injunctions in order to be able to identify individual clinicians who they wished to criticise publicly, contending that the High Court had no jurisdiction to continue the injunctions.

The court determined that it had jurisdiction to continue the injunctions by virtue of s.6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 read with s.37 of the Senior Courts Act 1981, even though the end of life proceedings had ended. It was obliged to protect the ECHR Art 8 privacy rights of the clinicians if the facts of the cases required this, when their rights were balanced against the Article 10 rights of the parents and the public.

On the facts the court considered that the Article 8 rights of the staff should prevail. It considered evidence filed by the hospital trusts that there was potential for individuals if identified in the media to become vulnerable to physical or personal attacks and to suffer adversely in terms of their mental health and wellbeing, which needed to be taken seriously. If the parents had legitimate grievances, they could be pursued through formal disciplinary or complaints processes or through civil proceedings.

Gavin Millar QC was involved in this case.