Full case report

Spelman v Express Newspapers (No.1)

Reference [2012] EWHC 239
Court High Court, Queen's Bench Division

Judge Lindblom J

Date of Judgment 14 Feb 2012


Summary

Injunction – Privacy – Public Interest –  Bonnard v Perryman – Anonymity of Parties – Minors – Article 8 – Article 10 – Preservation of Anonymity pending appeal


Facts

C was a minor aged 17 years old and the son of a Cabinet Minister. The Defendant (D) proposed to publish an article in a Sunday newspaper concerning information about C which C contended was private. C applied for an injunction via his parents as litigation friends prohibiting publication on the grounds that it interfered with his Article 8 rights (right to a private and family life). D contended that (1) this was in essence a reputational claim and an injunction was against the rule in Bonnard v Perryman and (2) publication was in the public interest such that its Article 10 rights (right to freedom of expression) outweighed those of the C under Article 8. C also argued that the names of the parties should be anonymised and that in any event, even if the court ruled otherwise, anonymity should be preserved pending appeal on a ruling to the contrary.


Issue

(1) whether the claim was in essence a defamation claim prohibited by the rule in Bonnard v Perryman;

(2) whether the C’s Article 8 rights outweighed the D’s Article 10 rights in publication;

(3) whether C was entitled to anonymity in respect of the proceedings;

(4) whether anonymity should be preserved pending renewal of an application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal on the anonymity ruling.


Held

1. The claim concerned C’s private information in respect of which he had a reasonable expectation of privacy and was not contrary to the rule in Bonnard v Perryman prohibiting prior restraint.

2. In balancing the rights in play, the balance fell in favour of C and an injunction would be granted.  D’s publication would not advance the public interest to a material degree and publication was likely to cause significant harm to C. The fact that C’s mother was a Cabinet Minister was not the overriding factor.

3. Anonymity would not be granted to C. Applying JIH v  Newsgroup Newspapers [2011] EWCA Civ 42 and following the Master of the Rolls’ Practice Guidance on Interim Non-Disclosure Orders, the general rule was that the parties should be named even in cases concerning private information. Sufficient protection was provided by the fact that the subject matter of the injunction would not be in the private domain.

4. Permission to appeal the anonymity ruling was refused on the grounds that there were no prospects of success.

5. The application to preserve anonymity pending appeal  of the anonymity ruling was refused. The factors were different when considering whether anonymity should be maintained pending appeal. There was force in D’s argument that is should be free to publish now what the Court had ruled it was free to publish.


Comment

This case is notable as being one of a handful of cases involving minors making an application for a privacy injunction.  It is interesting for the Court’s approach in considering that the fact that the public interest in publication could be met in other ways was a relevant factor. It is also illustrative of the new approach following the Master of the Rolls’ Practice Guidance on Interim Non-Disclosure Orders that anonymity of parties is now the exception, even in cases involving private information, and that those seeking privacy injunctions can expect to be publicly identified.


Instructing Solicitors

Manches for the Claimant; Express Newspapers Legal Department for the Defendant