In two recent Federal Court decisions in the Darwin registry Reeves J quashed notices to produce issued by an Australian Crime Commission Examiner. The notices were issued to obtain information as part of the Northern Territory intervention. The notices required two Aboriginal health services to produce medical records of children who had sought, inter alia, contraceptive advice.
There was no suspicion that the children had been subject to abuse and, in the case of the medical service in NTD8, the only relevant children were teenagers believed to be engaging in consensual sexual activity with other young people.
The health services had advised the Examiner that the production of the records without the consent of the children or their parents was likely to result in teenagers avoiding seeking sexual health advice and treatment for fear of breach of confidentiality. The Examiner ignored the advice. His Honour found that the Examiner was required to take into account the best interests of the children as a primary consideration and had failed make a proper assessment of what the best interests of the children called for in the circumstances.