Gillick Competence

Gillick exposes our most vulnerable to the ill-conceived whims of their own immaturity

By Dr. Scott McLachan PhD
King's College, London

Background: What is Gillick competence?

Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority 1986

In 1982 Victoria Gillick took her local health authority (West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority) and the Department of Health and Social Security to court in an attempt to stop doctors from giving contraceptive advice or treatment to under 16-year-olds without parental consent.

The case went to the High Court in 1984 where Mr Justice Woolf dismissed Mrs Gillick's claims. The Court of Appeal reversed this decision, but in 1985 it went to the House of Lords and the Law Lords (Lord Scarman, Lord Fraser and Lord Bridge) ruled in favour of the original judgment delivered by Mr Justice Woolf:

"…whether or not a child is capable of giving the necessary consent will depend on the child's maturity and understanding and the nature of the consent required. The child must be capable of making a reasonable assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment proposed, so the consent, if given, can be properly and fairly described as true consent" (Gillick v West Norfolk, 1984).

Gillick competency applies mainly to medical advice but it is also used by practitioners in other settings. For example, if a child or young person:

Reference: NSPCC Learning

If you are a parent, look over at your children and ask yourself the following question:

(i) Do YOU think they are sufficiently competent to understand what informed consent is, whether or not what they have received is informed consent, and the future ramifications of any decision they might be asked to make right now?


(ii) Do you think your child is capable of consenting to or even comprehending the new types of Relationships and Sexuality Education being foisted upon them in schools? Lesson plans that promote biologically impossible sexes beyond that of male and female, that teach children they can fluidly flip-flop between being male, female or something else at a whim like flipping a light switch, that instruct your child in alternate sexual behaviours and recommend teens have anal sex, or that teach under-fours about masturbation and assign practice of it for homework?


(iii) Do you think it is appropriate for a small number of parents to attain fame, fortune or notoriety through use of their child as a pawn to feed their own attention-seeking needs?

I am writing a text describing the path where Gillick competence went from being about temporary treatments, to something that is now used to let younger & younger kids permanently harm themselves.

While in the case review the youngest child who was 'granted' Gillick competence was 12, there is now a push from the trans movements for Gillick competence to be extended to the under-10s. 

We have no idea the impact this could have on those children.

My case review can be found below.

What did I find?

I reviewed 20 cases that came before the courts in UK, AUS and NZ between 2019 and 2022 involving Gillick competence. I found that almost all cases involved a dispute between the child’s parents and two contended issues dominated: (i) gender transitioning treatments; and (ii) Covid-19 vaccinations.

Most people believe judges make decisions based on the law as laid down in legislation (Acts of Parliament and related regulations) and precedent (court judgements in previous cases). However, for both issues I noted that judges more often relied on opinion-laced rather than evidence-driven website sources from: (a) government (for example, those of the Prime Minister’s Office, Health Department or medical regulators); and (b) non-goverment (for example, those of the mainstream media, academic or clinical professionals or even sometimes bloggers that claimed to be professionals or to have relevant qualifications or knowledge) whose content simply supported the position the judge already favoured. In some examples this latter point was especially obvious where judges dismissed as unqualified or conspiracy-laden sources of an almost identical but rival viewpoint offered into evidence by the party opposed to the treatments or Covid-19 vaccinations, while supporting their judgement with pro-vaccine or pro-trans websites of a similarly unqualified and questionable nature. Even where a judge relied on the prior decision of an equal or higher court, review of that supporting decision often found the judgement in that court had been based on these opinion-laced websites.

If nothing else, one thing is gradually becoming clearer: Gillick competence may no longer be in the best interests of the child.

To read the entire article you can visit the SubStack link below and follow @LawHealthTech on Twitter. We would like to give great thanks to Dr. McLachlan for this important research in child development and learning.