Reporting restrictions refused in Burrell rape trial

Complainant fails to prevent publication of details of her complaint

Mr Justice Aikens has refused an application for reporting restrictions under s.4(2) Contempt of Court Act 1981 in the rape trial of Michael Burrell, a senior member of the Lord Chancellor’s Department. 


The complainant asked the Court to ban reporting of details of her evidence on the grounds that, whilst she had been granted anonymity under the Sexual Offences (Amendment Act) 1992, some of her work colleagues knew that she was the complainant. She claimed that if they found out about some of the evidence raised in the trial, she would be too embarrassed to return to work at its conclusion and would therefore have to find a new job.


Supporting her application, the Crown argued that a s.4(2) order ought to be granted because it would avoid “a substantial risk of prejudice in the administration of justice” i.e. the administration of justice would be prejudiced if the trial did not go ahead.


This is believed to have been the first time that such an argument has been deployed in support of an application for a reporting restriction.


Rejecting the application, the judge concluded that the only order which could have met the complainant’s demands was one which provided a life-time ban on the publication of the relevant facts.


The judge took into account the fact that a reporting restriction would itself amount to an interference with the administration of justice because it would interfere with the principle of open justice.


5RB‘s William Bennett appeared on behalf of MGN, NGN and Guardian Newspapers Limited.  He was instructed by Marcus Partington of MGN.


A copy of the judgment and a full 5RB case report will be available shortly.