The Court of Appeal has allowed an appeal by a Children’s Guardian, to a limited extent, over a Family Court judge’s decision to give permission for a mobile phone extraction exercise in care proceedings.
The order in question was made during the course of a lengthy fact finding hearing. By her order, Her Honour Judge Major granted permission to the first respondent in the appeal (“the father”) to instruct an organisation called Evidence Matters to conduct the exercise in respect of a mobile phone formally belonging to his daughter (“S”).
Thereafter, provision was made for Evidence Matters to file a report to be sent to counsel and solicitors (but not the parties) disclosing all messages and social media communications as between S and the father, S and her former boyfriend (“G”), and S and three of her friends (all of whom were under 18).
In P, H-L (CHILDREN) (Mobile Phone Extraction)  EWCA 206 the Children’s Guardian, who represents S in the care proceedings, appealed against the making of the order, although only in respect of the numerous communications between S and her friends.
The Guardian submitted that the interference in the Article 8 privacy rights of the three friends was such that the court should obtain the consent of the parents of each of the friends before the material could be either downloaded by Evidence Matters or disclosed into the proceedings.