Guardian News and Media Ltd & Ors in HM Treasury v Ahmed & Ors
Reference:  UKSC 1
Court: Supreme Court
Judge: Lord Rodger, Lord Phillips, Lord Hope, Lord Walker, Lady Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Kerr
Date of judgment: 27 Jan 2010
Summary: Anonymity orders - Article 8 & 10 - Freedom of expression - Privacy - Reputation - Reporting restrictions
Download: Download this judgment
Instructing Solicitors: Finers Stephens Innocent LLP for the Applicants; Birnberg Peirce and Partners for the Appellants; Treasury Solicitor for the Respondent
A, K, M, G & HAY were individuals subject to orders under terrorism legislation. Various freezing orders were in place and all of the individuals had been granted anonymity, despite both G and HAY’s identities being in the public domain. HAY argued that identification of him would result in retributive actions against members of his family; the whereabouts of A and K was unknown, but M argued that publication of his or A or K’s name could cause serious damage to his reputation, and would affect his family life. The media applicants applied for the orders to be lifted.
(1) Whether it was necessary to apply for a fresh anonymity order in relation to the appeals;
(2) Whether the anonymity orders should be set aside.
Allowing the application:
Where an open ended anonymity order has been made it should remain in force throughout the proceedings at whatever level unless set aside. The orders engaged both Articles 8 and 10. Karako v Hungary was not authority for the proposition that reputation does not fall within the scope of Art 8, but was rather concerned with cases where the attack on an individual’s reputation does not interfere with his private life so as to undermine his personal integrity. However, there was a powerful general public interest in identification which, on the facts, outweighed the effects on the individual’s private life.
Along with providing a useful analysis of the application of Karako, the judgment highlights the potentially stifling effects of anonymisation: “A report of the proceedings challenging the freezing orders which did not reveal the identities of the appellants would be disembodied. Certainly, readers would be less interested and, realising that, editors would tend to give the report a lower priority, In that way informed debate about freezing orders would suffer.” per Lord Rodger, para 64.