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United Kingdom

August 2, 2016

British Supreme Court Halts Plan to Monitor Children


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The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom last week blocked key provisions of the 2014 Children and Young People Bill—a controversial Scottish law that would have ordered the government to assign a “named person” to monitor every child in the country.

HSLDA Director of Global Outreach

In its ruling, the court found that the Scottish Parliament overstepped its delegated authority when it enacted this law. It specifically referenced the U.S. Supreme Court case Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which upheld the right of parents to control their children’s education.

The five judges, two of whom are from Scotland, wrote:

“Individual differences are the product of the interplay between the individual person and his upbringing and environment. Different upbringings produce different people. 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.”

The court also found that the law breached the right to a private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It gave the Scottish Parliament an opportunity to address the law’s problems within the next 42 days.

Fighting for the Family

The court’s decision came as a relief to a number of Scottish parents and pro-family organizations, who had criticized the law as “anti-family” and “illegal.” HSLDA had previously reported on the law and concluded that it posed a threat to family autonomy and privacy.

“This ruling is an important victory for the family and parental rights in Europe,” said Mike Donnelly, HSLDA’s Director of Global Outreach. “The British court cited an important American case and made very strong statements about the importance of protecting the family from undue government intrusion.”

The case challenging this law was brought by a coalition of pro-family groups, including Scotland’s Christian Institute, the British-based Christian Concern, the Family Education Trust, and three individual parents. The Christian Institute said that popular opinion in Scotland opposed the law.

“Dubbed the ‘State Snooper’ scheme by the Scottish press, the Named Person law has endured months of hostility from the public, and hard questions for [Scottish government officials],” the Institute reported. “A poll on behalf of The Christian Institute in March this year found nearly two-thirds of Scots believed it was an ‘unacceptable intrusion’ into family life.”

Opposing Centralized Data

Thousands of parents in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK started a coalition called “No to Named Persons” (NO2NP) and signed a petition by the Scottish “Schoolhouse” Home Education Association. The petition decried the attempts to have a mandatory reporter “supervise” each child and his or her family, and the push toward a central database for government agencies to share private information.

The Children and Young People Bill was part of a larger government policy initiative in Scotland called “Getting it Right for Every Child” (GIRFEC), a response to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). HSLDA has opposed ratifying the UNCRC precisely because it encourages governments to pass intrusive laws like this one, which interfere with family privacy.

Although the Scottish Parliament has said it will amend the law to meet the high court’s concerns, HSLDA commends the British high court and the organizations who challenged this law for recognizing that excessive government interference with family is a chilling step down the path towards totalitarian governance.

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Read More

The Guardian: Scottish Plan for Every Child to Have “Named Person” Breaches Rights

Watch the verdict from the Supreme Court in London.