Sintons represents NHS Trust in landmark Supreme Court Appeal

Sintons’ team of specialist healthcare lawyers is representing an NHS Trust in a high profile case being heard in the Supreme Court over two days on 15 and 16 April 2024. Details of the case can be found on the Supreme Court’s website. Kathryn Riddell, who is a partner within the team, with over 25 years’ experience in medico-legal work, explains the significance of the case.

Our healthcare team has considerable experience in representing NHS Trusts and other healthcare providers in what are often very complex and sensitive medico-legal matters.

We currently represent an NHS Trust in a landmark appeal which is due to be heard by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court only hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance.

The appeal arises from an application to lift reporting restrictions imposed by the Family Division in separate end-of-life proceedings involving two NHS Trusts. Due to the sensitive nature of such proceedings, which often attract a lot of public attention, reporting restrictions orders (RROs) are routinely imposed at the outset which prevent identification of the treating medical professionals. Following the tragic deaths of their respective children, the parents applied to court to lift the RROs to enable them to publish the identities of some of the treating medical professionals. The President of the Family Division dismissed the parents’ applications, and allowed the indefinite continuation of the RROs. The parents successfully appealed, the Court of Appeal ordering that the RROs should be discharged. The Supreme Court granted the NHS Trusts permission to appeal.

The Supreme Court will consider whether the Court of Appeal was right in its approach to balancing the medical professionals’ right to privacy against the parents’ competing right to freedom of expression, and concluding that the parents’ right to freedom of expression took precedence. The appeal will be heard by five Justices of the Supreme Court including its President, Lord Reed.

Subject to any further appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Court’s ruling will affect how reporting restrictions are imposed in similar cases in the future. It is likely to be several weeks before judgment is handed down. The judgment will have a significant impact on the way decisions regarding withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment are reported across the UK.

The Supreme Court is currently the only court in the country to routinely film all its proceedings and it is likely that this case will be available to watch live on the Supreme Court’s website.

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