Re Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic Community Football Club Ltd
Reference:  EWHC 2113 (Ch)
Court: Chancery Division
Judge: David Richards J
Date of judgment: 11 May 2006
Summary: Civil procedure - Contempt of court - Reporting restrictions - Private hearing - Private judgment - Party disclosing information to journalist - CPR Part 39.2(3) - s.12, Administration of Justice Act 1960
Instructing Solicitors: Richard Sedgley & Co for the Claimant; Duane Morris Heckscher for the Defendant
X presented a winding up petition against company B, which sought and obtained an injunction restraining X from advertising and proceeding further with the petition. The proceedings were held in private, and the resulting judgment was private. The petition was later dismissed in open court. B divulged to a journalist information relating to the private hearings and judgment. X applied to commit B for contempt.
If a Court chooses to sit in private under CPR Part 39.2(3), is the effect to confer secrecy on all the information relating to the proceedings and to prevent a party from publicising the information?
Dismissing the application; an order under the CPR that a hearing should take place in private did not automatically carry with it an order prohibiting publication of information relating to that hearing. The publication of information as to proceedings held in private was not of itelf a contempt of court unless it fell within one of the sub-paragraphs (a)-(e) of s.12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960. If the information did not fall within sub-categories (a)-(d), s.12(1)(e) of the 1960 Act required that the Court specifically direct itself as to whether an express order prohibiting publication should be made. The information relating to the injunction proceedings did not fall within sub-paragraphs (a)-(d) and it also did not fall within sub-paragraph (e) as no order prohibiting publication had been made. B was not therefore prohibited from divulging information about the private proceedings to a journalist.
This decision validates the opinion expressed in The Law of Privacy and the Media (OUP, 2002) at paragraph 12.55 that the reporting of a hearing held in private under the CPR would not of itself be a contempt “where no order prohibiting publication is made and the hearing does not otherwise fall within s.12”. The decision illuminates the fact that private hearings under the CPR falling outside s.12 have only a partial or contingent privacy. If a party to the proceedings wishes to assert his right of publicity another party cannot stop him. Whether or not a cloak of privacy continues to embrace the proceedings is dependent on all parties choosing to keep their silence.