Privacy wins as Supreme Court knock down Scotland’s totalitarian Named Person Scheme

Privacy won today in the Supreme Court in a case brought by the Christian Institute and others opposing the Named Person Scheme set to become law in Scotland next month.

The Christian Institute and others took the Scottish Government to court over their proposed Named Person Scheme.  The scheme would have permitted the Scottish Government to impose an outsider; teacher, midwife, health care worker, onto a family to ensure the appropriate upbringing for the child. This would have permitted the sharing of personal information across organisations in order to prevent problems occurring, replacing the current system where data is shared when a specific problem has been identified as a cause for concern.

The case brought by the Christian Institute argued that such a scheme would breach Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to a private family life.

The Supreme Court today found unanimously in their favour.

Their judgment made clear that the sharing of personal data and information between relevant authorities as proposed in the Named Person Scheme could not be justified as it will be “incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents under Article 8 of the ECHR because they are not ‘in accordance with the law’ as that article requires.”

The scheme set to become law in August 2016 intends to rewrite the rules on the sharing of data, permitting the named person and associated bodies to share personal data about the children and families in order to protect their “wellbeing”.

The Court determined that this would be a “disproportionate interference with the Article 8 rights”, and explained that the decision to share data to protect a child’s “wellbeing” is too low a bar and would contradict the requirement for data to only be shared if it would protect an individual’s “vital interests” as outlined in the Data Protection Act; which these authorities as data controllers will be required to follow.

Furthermore the judgment emphasised that the upbringing and development of children is first and foremost the right of the family, and that the State’s role is to assist the parents in their responsibilities, only taking action to protect a child from abuse or neglect.

The Court’s judgment lay particular weight on the potential totalitarianism of the Named Person Scheme with Baroness Hale stating that “The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world.  Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way.”

This is a huge win and the impact it will have will be far reaching, not only in relation to the Named Person Scheme but to plans for data sharing within Government as a whole and to the State’s ongoing desire to use data as a method of prying in order to pre-empt personal behaviour.

We are hugely proud of the Christian Institute and hugely proud to have been a supporter of the NO2NP (No to Named Person) campaign.