‘Named person’ law opponents say it will infringe children’s right to privacy

Alison Reid

Critics of the proposed “named person” law have said it could result in children no longer being able to have confidential discussions with adults as it weakens the legal test for sharing such information.

Clan Childlaw, which promotes the rights of young people, is to join a legal challenge to the legislation which, they say, infringes article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

They fear it could mean children stop using services such as helplines, pregnancy advisory services, legal advice services and mental health charities because of their lack of privacy.

The named person policy is already being challenged by the Christian Institute on the basis it will erode the rights of parents.

At present, in order to share information without a person’s consent, the law requires that there be a “risk of significant harm” to a young person.

However, the Children and Young People Scotland Act 2014 provides that anyone who has confidential information relating to a child may share it with other agencies so long as there is “concern for a child’s wellbeing”.

As such, confidential information can be handed over more easily – even where the child wants it kept confidential the charity has said.

It said this is “unlawfully interfering with a child’s right to privacy as protected by article 8 of the European Convention on Human rights,” and added that “this act creates a serious risk that children will not engage with confidential services when they are in need of help”.

Alison Reid, principal solicitor of Clan Childlaw, said: “However where there are no child protection concerns a child, like anyone else, should be entitled to a level of confidentiality when accessing advice.”

In January the Christian Institute’s attempt to prove the law was incompatible with the ECHR was rejected by Lord Pentland after a judicial review but an appeal against that decision is to be heard next month.

Clan Childlaw is applying to intervene in that appeal – saying there is a public interest in the court examining the issues anew.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: “In January Lord Pentland rejected the petition against Named Person on all grounds and ruled it did not contravene ECHR rights or EU law.

“We have been clear that information should only be shared in a manner that is proportionate and respects the views of young people and existing legal frameworks.

“The Scottish Information Commissioner’s Office has supported the information-sharing provisions within the Act and accepted that they are fully compatible with existing law.”