Ivereigh v Associated Newspapers Ltd

Reference: [2008] EWHC 339 (QB)

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Eady J

Date of judgment: 12 Feb 2008

Summary: Witness anonymity - inherent jurisdiction - CPR 39.2(4) - interests of witness and her children - private and family life - open justice - balancing - intense focus - order granted

Appearances: Adam Wolanski QC (Interested Party) 

Instructing Solicitors: Charles Russell for the C; Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the D

Facts

X, a prospective witness for the defence in a forthcoming high-profile libel trial applied for an anonymity order. She, like the claimant, AI, was a Roman Catholic. She had been married but was divorced. The evidence was to feature details of X’s relationship with AI, her sexual life, pregnancy, discussions about marriage and about abortion and miscarriage. She sought anonymity to protect her young children from the consequences of her name being linked to these matters. Her application was supported by evidence from a paediatrician and a head teacher, and by the defendant publisher. AI recognised that the children should have anonymity but opposed the application so far as X was concerned.

Issue

Should witness X be granted anonymity or would this, as AI submitted, “set a new precedent for curtailing freedom of expression” and offend against open justice principles?

Held

Granting the order, (1) the initial requirement of CPR 39.2(4) that anonymity be necessary in the interests of the witness was easily satisfied; (2) the question whether such an order is in the public interest cannot be answered by voicing the mantra of open justice; there is no general rule or principle which provides an answer; an intense focus must be applied to the competing rights, which included open justice and the Article 8 rights of X and her children, in the particular circumstances; (3) For this reason, AI’s submission that the order sought would set a new precedent was wrong; (4) It was hard to follow how X’s children could be kept anonymous if she was named; (5) AI had not managed to articulate why it was necessary for X to be named; (6) the order sought would not compromise the fairness of the proceedings or the ability of the public to understand them; (7) the balance came down in favour of the orders sought at the moment, although circumstances might change.

Comment

An important reminder that, as the Judge said, the principle of open justice is not, and never has been, an unqualified principle of universal application. The case for anonymity was a strong one on the particular facts.