February 13, 2008
Witness granted anonymity in libel trial
Divorcee and children protected from sensationalist reporting
Lawyers acting for one of the principal defence witnesses in a libel case due to be tried next week have obtained an order that her identity must be protected from disclosure when she gives evidence.
The Judge who made the order, Mr Justice Eady said that the decision had been made in the particular circumstances of the case and to protect the well-being of the witness and her children, aged 10 and 8. The media are not prevented from reporting the witness evidence at the pending trial save that her identity must not be reported. The Judge also emphasised that an order made in this case, based on medical and social reports on the effects of the inevitable publicity the case will attract, did not set a precedent nor inhibit the prospect of the case being tried openly and justly.
The case concerns an action brought by Austen Ivereigh, a former spokesman for the Archbishop of Westminster over a story in the Daily Mail relating to an affair with the witness in question. The story was based on information from the witness although she was not named in the article. The Claimant complains that the newspaper coverage branded him a hypocrite.