Only recently, a paralegal in a Hounslow law firm got in trouble for disclosing paperwork from family proceedings to a third party by submitting them to the Immigration Tribunal. The case is known as Re Nasrullah Mursalin  EWCA Civ 1559, and the poor paralegal was sentenced to six months imprisonment (although the Court of Appeal later quashed the sentence).
Does it mean that the documents from my family proceedings cannot be used for anything else?
Certainly not. Your legal advisor needs to follow certain rules to have the privacy of your family proceedings lifted to your advantage. Under the Family Procedure Rules (FPR) at 27.10, family proceedings are generally conducted in private, in particular those that concern the welfare and upbringing of children. In addition to that, pursuant to section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 and Rule 12.73 of the FPR, the disclosure of such documents, for example to an Immigration Tribunal judge, would be a contempt of court unless the Family Court has given permission for the disclosure.
A contempt is only established if the person, also called the publisher, knew they were giving information relating to court proceedings and that the proceedings were private proceedings. Now, a definition of publication was set out by Munby J Kent County Council, Re B (A Child) v the Mother & Ors  EWHC 411 and is rather wide. However, what the immigration practitioners should take from it is that dissemination of information to the Home Office, i.e. public body, does amount to publication and could be perceived as contempt of court.
What documents can I use?
Re B Munby goes on to establish two classes of documents:
- Documents that cannot be published under section 12 without the permission of the court, such as accounts of what has gone on in front of the judge sitting in private or affidavits, witness statements, reports, or other documents filed in the proceedings, transcripts or notes of the evidence or submissions, and any extracts, summaries or quotations from such documents;
- Documents that are not caught by section 12 and can be published without permission, such as the publication of the fact, that a child is a ward of court or that a child is the subject of proceedings to his maintenance or upbringing. The list further allows:
– the name, address or photograph of such a child, the parties to the proceedings or the witnesses;
– the date, time or place of a past or future hearing of such proceedings and their nature;
– the party on whose behalf such a witness has given evidence; and
– the text or summary of the whole or part of any order made in such proceedings.
How do I get the documents I need?
Firstly, try to obtain the consent of the other parties to the family proceedings, so a Consent Order can be drawn up and approved by the family court. If you are unable to obtain the consent, then you will need to make an application seeking disclosure of a limited list of documents. The application attracts a court fee and needs to be accompanied by a detailed statement.
All our articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information provided.