Full case report

XJA v News Group Newspapers Ltd

Reference [2010] EWHC 3174 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Sharp J

Date of Judgment 3 Dec 2010


Summary

Injunction – Anonymity order – Privacy – Misuse of private information – Open justice – Articles 8, 10 ECHR


Facts

The only facts disclosed by the judgment are that “the Claimant is a well-known person” [8], and that he applied on short notice for an injunction restraining publication of “certain information” [4]. The application was opposed. On the return day the Claimant maintained that the central information with which the action was concerned was false [4]. The application was adjourned twice while further investigations were carried out, and eventually the parties agreed a consent order, providing for the injunction to be continued until trial or further order, with liberty for the Defendant to apply. Since the provision for anonymity of the Claimant involved a departure from the norm of open justice, the Court had to consider whether it was justified.


Issue

Whether the Claimant should continue to be granted anonymity.


Held

The Court approved the continuation of anonymity provided for in the consent order.
The test for grant of anonymity is stated in Ntuli v Donald, taken from Home Secretary v AP (No. 2), namely, whether there is sufficient general public interest in publishing a report of the proceedings which identifies the Claimant to justify any resulting curtailment of his and his family’s right to respect for their private and family life [6] & [11].
Both the Ntuli and AP cases emphasise that the answer depends on the facts of the particular case, so that reference to earlier cases is unlikely to be of significant assistance [7].
In this case, the balance came down on the side of anonymity for four reasons:
(1) Identification of the Claimant could, on the evidence, seriously affect his family life, because it would lead to intrusive questions and speculation which would be extremely distressing for the Claimant and his family [8] & [15].
(2) If, as the Claimant maintained, the central information was false, identification would place him in an invidious position, in dealing with questions and speculation [8] & [15].
(3) Since the injunction was continued by consent, there was nothing to report about the case apart from the bare fact that an identified Claimant had obtained a privacy injunction, a fact which contributes nothing to the useful stock of public knowledge or to a debate of public interest [9] & [15].
(4) There was nothing to suggest that this case would not progress to trial [12], and if it did, naming the Claimant could well inhibit what could be made public at trial or in a judgment about the facts of the case [13] & [14].


Comment

The fact that identification may lead to unwelcome and distressing speculation and questions will not always lead to the grant of anonymity, see JIH v News Group Newspapers Ltd, presently pending in the Court of Appeal. The present case emphasises that each case depends on its own facts. The judgment is, however, useful for the indications it gives as to the relevance of the fact that the information in issue is false, as to the relative lack of any public interest in knowing the name of the Claimant where little or nothing can be reported about the facts of the case (as where the injunction is continued by consent), and as to the importance of not inhibiting future decisions as to reporting of the trial, and the judgment after the trial, by naming the Claimant at the interim stage.


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Instructing Solicitors

Charles Russell for the Claimant; Farrer & Co for the Defendant