Explain the Gillick Principle

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The Gillick Principle orginates from the House of Lords case, Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority) [1986]. A mother, who was a devout Catholics and didn’t believe in contraception, took her local health authority to court to prevent her underage teenage girls going to a GP and getting contracpetion. This was in response to a Department of Health letter to GPs which stated if an underage girl was mature enough, they should be given contracpetion.

The House of Lords held the letter from the department of health was valid advice. Lord Fraser introduced a checklist for whether a child under 16 should be given contraception.

Lord Fraser's checklist:

    1) girl will understand advice

    2) cannot be persuaded to inform parents 

    3) likely to begin/continue intercourse with or without contraception

    4) without contraception, physical and mental health likely to suffer

    5) best interests require contraception without parental consent

Lord Scarman provided a wider test, and is more appropiate for establishing when a child gain autonomy in a wider context. He suggests using the maturity to establish whhether a child has autonomy but suggests it must be used carefully.

 “A child is competent once acquires "sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable him or her to understand fully what is proposed.”

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