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This week's opinion: 23 January 2020

22 January 2020 / Andrew Hubbard
Issue: 4728 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
Concerns about the loss of privacy

I have commented before on concerns about the loss of privacy that can occur in the publication of appeal decisions, in particular relating to health and personal wellbeing. A recent case made me extremely uncomfortable on this point. In order not to further the sharing of obtrusive information I will not name the case, although it is reported in the usual sources. 

The context is an appeal against a First-tier Tribunal decision to allow an appeal to proceed without the taxpayers’ counsel being present because of illness after there had already been delays in reaching a hearing. Counsel’s medical problems had been known for some time and the tribunal decided the taxpayers had had plenty of time to arrange alternative representation. The Upper Tribunal upheld the decision and found that the taxpayers had not suffered prejudice.

What disturbed me was the amount of detail about counsel’s condition revealed in the case report. It seems wrong that details of advice from her oncologist and about her chemotherapy treatment were included. It was entirely right for the Upper Tribunal to consider these matters fully – it had to have a full picture of what had happened to reach a decision that was fair to all parties. But surely the report could have been modified so that these details did not have to be on the public record. Counsel died from her disease. This was acknowledged in the judgment only with these words ‘the appellants were to be represented at the hearing by counsel, XXX, (now deceased)’, which seem very cold and devoid of any sympathy.

In future, I hope that some way of shielding the publication of such personal information – particularly as it did not relate to the taxpayers – could be found, unless it is essential to the judgment that it is put into the public domain.

If you do one thing...

Read from para 132 of the Hicks case ( There are important lessons here for all advisers. 


Issue: 4728 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
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