Full case report

Venables & Thompson v News Group Newspapers Ltd

Reference [2001] EWHC 32 (QB); [2001] Fam 430; [2001] 2 WLR 1038; [2001] 1 All ER 908; [2001] EMLR 255; [2001] 1 FLR 791
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Butler-Sloss P

Date of Judgment 8 Jan 2001


Summary

Confidential information – Disclosure – Injunction – s.12 Human Rights Act 1998


Facts

The Claimants, the convicted murderers of James Bulger, applied for indefinite injunctive relief to restrain publication of their new identities and their whereabouts.


Issue

Whether the court had jurisdiction to protect an adult’s identity in circumstances where there was a serious risk to physical safety. It was argued that the court should exercise its equitable jurisdiction to make the orders sought by the Claimants.


Held

(1) The Claimants were uniquely notorious and at risk of serious physical harm. They would continue to be at risk in future. (2) The Claimants rights under Art 2 of the Convention demanded protection which could be provided by extension of the law of confidence. (3) An injunction contra mundum was granted restraining publication of the Claimants’ identities and their whereabouts.


Comment

Despite being said to be an exceptional case justifying an exceptional order, the Courts have gone on to make two further orders, in favour of Mary Bell and Maxine Carr. Are they really so exceptional, or are they going to be granted to anyone who can claim that his/her notoriety or infamy is likely to lead to someone making death threats against him/her?


Instructing Solicitors

Farrer & Co for the Defendants, Bhatt Murphy and Lloyd Lee Dures for the Claimants


Links

Bulger killers launch privacy fight - BBC
Judgment
New lives, new terrors for little James's killers - The Observer
Precedent warning as judgment promises new lives in secrecy for icons of hate - The Guardian
Toddler's killers win secrecy ruling - CNN