Stone v South East Coast Strategic Health Authority & Others
Reference:  EWHC 1668 (Admin);  UKHRR 137
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Davis J
Date of judgment: 12 Jul 2006
Summary: Privacy - Confidence - Medical Information - ECHR, Articles 8 and 10 - Judicial review of decision to publish full report into care, supervision and treatment of individual
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Instructing Solicitors: Peter Edwards Law for the Claimant; Capsticks for the Defendant; Department of Health Solicitors for Interested Party (1); Harman Solicitors for Interested Party (2)
S was convicted of the brutal murder of two individuals and imprisoned for life which crime he committed in 1996. An inquiry was subsequently held into the care, treatment and supervision of S during the period before the murders. S co-operated with the inquiry by giving it full access to his medical and probation and some other records. In 2005 S indicated that he objected to the report of the Inquiry being published to the world at large, in particulars part of it which cited extensively from his private medical and other such notes and disclosure of psychiatric and other such information, claiming that publication of such information would be contrary to Article 8 ECHR. He applied for judicial review of the decision to publish it in full.
Whether publication of the full report of the Inquiry would infringe S’s Article 8 rights
Dismissing S’s application for judicial review:
(1) S’s Article 8 rights were clearly engaged. That right was reinforced by two considerations. First, the public interest mandated that persons ought to be able to talk freely with their medical advisers without fear of disclosure. Secondly, persons may give access to such information for the purpose of, say, an inquiry without fear that such information will later be released;
(2) There was on conducting the balancing exercise S’s Article 8 rights should yield to Article 10 for a number of reasons, including: (i) there was a clear public interest, which S conceded, that the public should know what went wrong with S’s treatment; (ii) such a public interest extended to the public being able to reach an informed assessment of the failures and deficiencies identified in S’s treatment; (iii) the public ought to legitimately know where individuals or agencies involved in S’s treatment are (or are not) criticised.
This decision is what appears to be a rare example of a situation where a court has been willing to hold that the Article 10 right to freedom of expression outweighs an individual’s Article 8 right in cases involving private medical information. It is arguably a case which will seldom arise in practice in view of its unique facts.