Use of Secret Recording For Personal Protection
Can audio recordings taken by the mother, without the father’s knowledge or consent, be used in a parenting case in court?
This was a question recently considered by the court.
The recordings in question were recorded before the parties separated. The father admitted that he was the person in the recordings.
The court noted that under the Surveillance Devices Act 2007, a person must not knowingly use a listening device to record a private conversation. The legislation does not apply, however, if the recording is “reasonably necessary” for the protection of the lawful interest of one party (here, the mother).
The mother’s case was that the father was abusive, controlling and violent. The father contended that he had never been abusive towards the mother and, other than two occasions on which he damaged property, denied any acts of family violence.
The Court found that the recordings were “reasonably necessary” in this case. At the time the recordings were made, the mother was living with the father, was fearful of leaving him and was concerned about finances. There was no evidence to suggest that the recordings were made for any reason other than to corroborate the mother’s story or to protect her from the father.
In the circumstances where the mother was fearful of the father, the Court held that it may not have been reasonable for the mother to go to the Police and obtain a warrant to record the conversations. The Court allowed the recordings to be used in the parenting trial.