Full case report

H v Associated Newspapers Ltd

Reference [2002] EWCA Civ 195
Court Court of Appeal

Judge Lord Phillips MR, Judge & Carnwarth LJJ

Date of Judgment 27 Feb 2002


Summary

Confidence – Privacy – Human Rights – Injunction – HIV – Medical records – Data Protection Act 1998


Facts

H, a health worker diagnosed with HIV attempted to prevent his previous employer (‘N’) from obtaining medical records so they could carry out a patient notification on his private patients. H commenced an action against N seeking a declaration that the notification was contrary to the Data Protection Act and an injunction to prohibit N from obtaining the records. Master Leslie ordered that the parties should be anonymised in this action. The Mail on Sunday became interested but was restrained by injunction ordered by Scott Baker J. The newspaper applied to vary. Both orders were considered by Gross J. Publication of the identity and whereabouts and professional specialism of H were forbidden. H appealed the part of the order permitting identification of N and the newspaper challenged the restriction on soliciting of further information regarding H’s identity.


Issue

Whether the varied order adequately protected the substantive legal rights of the various parties in both actions.


Held

The revelation of N’s identity would lead to the identification of H. In order not to pre-empt the determination of the issues raised in the first action, the order that both H and N should only be identified by initials was appropriate and Gross J’s modification of the orders to permit the identification of N was set aside. The part of the order restricting further journalistic investigation into H’s identity was not upheld, for the reason that it was unjustifiably wide.


Comment

This case is interesting because of the court’s refusal to countenance administrative convenience being a ground upon which press freedom could be restricted. Lord Phillips rejected the contention (at para 41): “… that the Court had jurisdiction to grant an injunction to prevent an interference with one of the fundamental human rights, where no breach of a duty owed under our private law was made out. We would view with concern any attempt to invoke the power of the Court to grant an injunction restraining freedom of expression merely on the ground that release of the information would give rise to administrative problems and a drain on resources. Such consequences are the price which has to be paid, from time to time, for freedom of expression in a democratic society.”


Instructing Solicitors

Clyde & Co for the Claimant; Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the Defendant


Links

HIV health worker 'in privacy fight' - BBC
Judgment
Press fights ban in Aids virus case - The Guardian
Privacy claim by NHS worker with HIV - The Guardian