Full case report

Norman v Norman

Reference [2017] EWCA Civ 49
Court Court of Appeal (Civil Division)

Judge Gloster, King and Lewison LJJ

Date of Judgment 8 Feb 2017


Summary

Court of Appeal – anonymity orders – financial remedy proceedings


Facts

The former wife of a City banker applied to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal against the refusal to set aside two consent orders that she had entered into with her ex-husband as part of financial remedy proceedings.

The wife contacted the press to alert them to anonymity orders that had previously been made in the case by the Court of Appeal.  Directions were given that the issue of anonymity should be decided by the full Court of Appeal at the hearing of the Wife’s renewed application for permission to appeal.


Issue

Whether the anonymity order of 2011 should be continued, or a fresh anonymity order should imposed.


Held

The anonymity order was set aside and no fresh order made. The general approach of the Court of Appeal is that anonymity orders are made only exceptionally, including in financial remedy cases which are held in private at first instance.

This approach to such orders was well-settled, and there was no need to reconsider this approach in light of JX MX v Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust  [2015] EWCA Civ 96.

The wife’s claim to an engagement or infringement of her Article 8 rights was extremely tenuous. The wife’s Article 8 rights were not engaged by her distress about comments made about her in the press or on social media, and neither were they engaged by the fact that she was being criticised for engaging in litigation. The case primarily concerned the Husband’s financial information, not the Wife’s and the Husband was neutral on the application.

Even if the wife’s Article 8 rights were engaged, the countervailing interest in reporting the proceedings outweighed those rights. The case gave rise to real and important issues which required full reporting and open debate. There is a strong and well-established public interest in reporting court proceedings, particularly reports which engage the interest of readers.

 


Comment

All three judges give judgments and emphasise the importance of the issues raised.

Both Gloster and Lewison LJJ declined, in strong terms, to take up Mostyn J’s invitation in DL v SL [2015] EWHC 2621 (Fam) to reconsider the rules governing anonymity in financial remedies proceedings the Court of Appeal post JX MX v Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust.

The court provided procedural guidance relating to the making of applications for anonymity orders or for restrictions on publication in the Court of Appeal. This includes the making of a formal application supported by evidence; and notification of the press via the Press Association Copy Direct service. However no such application is needed where all that is sought is an anonymity order relating to children.

King LJ noted that it was desirable that the Court of Appeal should address the divergence in approach between different judges of the Family Division as to privacy in financial remedies cases. However, since these issues did not arise in the current case, the court declined to enter what were described as these ‘choppy waters’.


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