Curry Popeck

Court warns against secretly recording children in family cases

A judge has outlined why it would nearly always be wrong to secretly record children’s conversations as a way of gathering evidence in family proceedings.

The issue arose in a case involving a dispute between a father and mother over the residence of their daughter.

The father and his new partner wanted to know what the child was saying at meetings with her social worker, a family support worker and her guardian so they sewed button-sized recording devices into the girl’s school uniform on the days when a meeting was due to take place.

The device recorded everything she did that day, including conversations with her friends, her teachers and her mother. They made recordings in that way for approximately 18 months and the father transcribed conversations which he felt were relevant and tried to use them as evidence.

The court held that the father and his partner could not meet the girl’s emotional needs and ordered that she should live with her mother.

The judge then criticised the use of the recordings, saying they served no useful purpose and would distress the daughter if she found out about them. The father’s actions could also affect the family’s standing in the community, as other parents would be concerned that their children’s conversations might have been recorded as a result of talking to the daughter.

Anyone considering doing something similar should first think carefully about the consequences. Experience suggested that the covert recording of others normally said more about the recorder than the recorded.

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Case featured:
Court warns against secretly recording children in family cases
[2016] EWFC 29
Fam Ct (Peter Jackson J) 16/05/2016