Hirschfeld v McGrath

Reference: [2011] EWHC 249 (QB)

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Tugendhat J

Date of judgment: 15 Feb 2011

Summary: Misuse of private information - Confidentiality - Marital confidences - Injunction - Consent order - Undertakings - Anonymity - Reporting proceedings

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Appearances: Godwin Busuttil (Claimant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Payne Hicks Beach for C; D in person


The Claimant (C) was formerly married to the Defendant (D). D threatened to include certain private information concerning C in an autobiography that he proposed to publish. C applied for and obtained on an urgent basis an interim injunction restraining D from publishing the information. This order conferred anonymity on the parties until the return date. At the return date, as regarded the substantive relief C was seeking, D indicated that he was prepared to give permanent undertakings to the court.


Whether the anonymity order should be continued – permitting the court to say more about the case in a public judgment – or whether some other order governing the reporting of the proceedings should be made.


Lifting the anonymity order but restricting the information about the case which may be published:

D still intended to publish his autobiography.  In view of this, were the court to continue the anonymity order and to include more detail about the case in a public judgment, there was a risk of ‘jigsaw identification’ following the book’s publication which would defeat the purpose of C having come to court.  For this reason, the right course for the court to take was to lift the anonymity order and to limit the amount of information concerning the case contained in the public judgment.


A further contribution to the case law on anonymity orders and other reporting restrictions in the context of proceedings concerning misuse of private information.  Tugendhat J applied the principles recently laid down by the Court of Appeal in Ntuli v Donald and JIH v News Group Newspapers Ltd.