Full case report

AMM v HXW

Reference [2010] EWHC 2457 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Tugendhat J

Date of Judgment 7 Oct 2010


Summary

Privacy – Interim injuction – Blackmail  – Anonymity – European Convention on Human Rights, Articles 8, 10


Facts

The Claimant (C) had obtained an interim injunction preventing the Defendant (D) disclosing information about his private life. Before the return date a newspaper report of the injunction (which did not breach the injunction), put certain matters into the public domain, including the fact that D was C’s ex-wife and that D claimed to have had an affair with C after C had remarried. On the return date C applied to continue the injunction and put in evidence supporting his allegation that D was attempting to blackmail him. C also asked the court to continue the anonymity order. D did not oppose the continuation of the Order, nor did she put in any evidence contradicting C’s evidence.


Issue

(1) Whether the injunction should be continued;

(2) Whether the court should grant anonymity.


Held

Continuing the injunction: there was credible and uncontradicted evidence from C that D had threatened to disclose information about his private life, in particular his sexual life which the public had no right to know and which would be highly damaging to C and to other people. D had not advanced any argument that it would in any way be in the public interest that the information should be disclosed. Where a claimant alleges he is being blackmailed the court has limited choices: (1) refuse anonymity but restrict the publication of the facts of the action; (2) grant anonymity and permit the publication of some of facts about the action. In this instance, some important items of information had already been published, and the only option open to the court was to grant anonymity. The decision whether to grant anonymity to a party or a witness was not a matter of the court’s discretion but of obligation. The fact that a person makes unwarranted demands with threats to disclose information does not mean the person has no right to freedom of expression but the blackmail is a factor to be taken into consideration in the balancing exercise.


Comment

Between the original application and the return date, Sharp J handed down her judgment in another alleged blackmail case, DFT v TFD [2010] EWHC 2335 (QB). In both cases the defendants did not claim to be entitled to disclose the information and one consented to and the other did not oppose the continuation of the injunction. The inclusion of provisions in an order limiting the information allowed to be published to that in the public domain and in the judgment itself is likely to benefit both claimants and defendants at the interim stage by reducing the risk of jigsaw identification whilst making it easier for publishers to ascertain what may or may not be published. The judgment also demonstrates the burden on the claimant in obtaining anonymity orders, which as the judge identified raises “wider issues” than whether or not the court should prohibit the defendant from disclosing information.


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Instructing Solicitors

Olswang for the Claimant; JMW Solicitors LLP for the Defendant