In an eagerly awaited Judgment handed down earlier today, the Court of Appeal overturned a widely criticised High Court ruling. In December 2020, this ruling effectively required the majority of young people to secure 'best interest orders' via the court before beginning puberty blocking treatment.
Instead, the Court of Appeal re-emphasised the legal test of Gillick competency and confirmed that it is for clinicians together with patients and families to make decisions about treatment rather than the courts.
The judgment makes strong and stark criticisms in response to the High Court's original decision and re-confirmed that the Tavistock Clinic's policies and practices were lawful:
“We conclude that it was in appropriate for the Divisional Court to give the guidance concerning when a court application will be appropriate and to reach general age-related conclusions about the likelihood or probability of different cohorts of children being capable of giving consent. That is not to say that an application will never be appropriate. There may be circumstances where there are disputes between one or more of clinicians, patients and parents where an application will be necessary, even if they are difficult to envisage under the service specification with which this case is concerned." [paragraph 88]
We know that this judgment will come as a huge sigh of relief to many young people and their families who have been significantly affected by the Court's decision in December 2020. We now wait to see what amendments NHS England will make to their service specification in response so that there is overall clarity for young people moving forward.
Our children law team understand the significance of this case for the transgender community and can help you understand what it means for you and your family. If you do have any questions or would like any help our specialist advisors are here to help.