Full case report

R (on the application of Harper and Johncox) v Aldershot Magistrates Court

Reference [2010] EWHC 1319
Court Administrative Court

Judge Pill LJ, Rafferty J

Date of Judgment 8 Jun 2010


Summary

Reporting restrictions – Magistrates court – Application for order banning publication of defendant police officers home address – Order refused – Judicial review


Facts

The claimants were two senior police officers (H and J) facing trial before magistrates on criminal charges alleging improper interference with prosecutions for speeding. They applied for an order that their home addresses be withheld from the public, and that the media be banned from reporting them. The magistrates refused the order and the men’s addresses were read out in open court.

A temporary injunction was granted later that evening by Mr Justice Jack, banning publication of their addresses. The men sought an order continuing the injunction and also applied for judicial review of the magistrates’ decision.

Counsel for the claimants argued that there was evidence to show that there was a genuine concern for their safety and that of their families.The officers had been involved in investigating and prosecuting serious crime for more than 25 years, and had been involved in covert operations. H and his family had previously been placed in a witness protection scheme for 18 months following his involvement in the investigation of a serious crime.

Counsel for the claimants further contended that as their application was limited to the men’s home addresses it was proportionate and the least derogation possible from the principle of open justice.


Issue

Whether the court should make an order banning publication of the claimants’ home addresses, applying the test of whether a failure to grant the order would frustrate the administration of justice


Held

The claimants had failed to meet the burden of establishing that there was justification for interfering with the principle of open justice. If there was a risk to the lives of the men and their families, it would not in the circumstances be enhanced by publication of addresses. On the information the claimants gave, any approach to them was likely to be a targeted one which would not be deterred by the need to discover a home address. While the charges against the claimants were serious, they were unlikely to provoke that response by vigilantes which occasionally occurs in some categories of offence, for example, charges involving abuse of young children.


Comment

The court gave short thrift to Claimants’ contention that publishing the addresses of officers in the position in which H and J found themselves might deter them and other officers from performing their duties in the future.


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Instructing Solicitors

Lewis Hymanson & Small for the Claimants