Sunday, 13 November 2016

Can material prepared for family law proceedings be used by the Police?

In the recent case of Sahadi and Savva the mother and father were involved in family law proceedings against each other and they were also both accused of serious criminal charges.

The trial judge had granted an application by the Commissioner of Police to release a report prepared in family law proceedings to the Police and others.  The mother appealed that decision. 

On appeal the Full Court noted:
  • ·         That the trial judge had found that the Police had a legitimate forensic purpose in seeking leave to use the report and His Honour had weighted the child's interests against the public interest in ensuring that justice is done in the criminal proceedings;
  • ·         That the very purpose of a report is for the benefit of the Court and the expert is obligated to declare that no matters of significance have been withheld from the Court – therefore it is impossible to see how there is some confidentiality between the report writer and the parties;
  • ·         That the question of the admissibility of the report – including consideration of disputed matters of fact – is a matter for the Court determining the criminal proceedings.
  • ·         That the trial Judge had accepted the evidence of the Commissioner – unchallenged by the mother – that it is only after the collection and evaluation of evidence that decisions can be made as to the use of material and as such the whole of the report was relevant.

The Full Court therefore upheld the trial judge's decision.

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