In the Media

Appeal court backs publication of arrest names

PUBLISHED August 6, 2014

A man arrested but never charged over sexual offences has failed to persuade the Court of Appeal that newspapers should be barred from identifying him.  

In PNM and Times Newspapers Limited and ORS [2014] EWCA Civ 1132 the court was hearing an appeal against the High Court's refusal last October to grant an interim non-disclosure order against The Times and Oxford Mail newspapers.

The appellant, known as PNM, wanted to prevent publication of the fact he had been arrested in 2012 in connection with a major investigation into child grooming and prostitution in the Oxford area. The investigation ended with seven convictions, but PNM was released without charge. 

Although PNM was not a party to the criminal trial, his name emerged in evidence. At his request an order was made under section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 preventing the publication of identifying details until further order.

In a subsequent application for a privacy injunction, PNM argued that the publication of information leading to his identification would interfere with his rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights because he would be regarded as guilty even though he had not been charged or prosecuted for any offence. 

Against this, the newspapers argued that the principle of open justice over-rode any rights to privacy.

Last autumn, in the High Court, Mr Justice Tugendhat concluded there was a sufficient general public interest in publishing a report of the court proceedings which identified the appellant and any normally reportable details of those proceedings to justify any resulting curtailment of his right and his family's right to respect for their private and family life.

In the Court of Appeal judgment, Lady Justice Sharp said that the ordinary rule that the press may report everything which takes place in open court is 'a strong rule both domestically and in European jurisprudence and can only be displaced by unusual or exceptional circumstances'.

Sharp conceded that recent guidance from the judiciary and police 'provides some support for the proposition that there should be a more careful consideration of [an arrested invididual's] rights than there might have been in the past'. However she went on to say that the appellant is not someone who has 'simply been arrested', but whose name was cited in open court. 

While dismissing the appeal, she said the judgment would remain anonymised until the appellant's application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court has been determined. 'If the application for permission is not pursued or is unsuccessful then those section 4(2) orders will be lifted and the appellant's full name should be substituted for the initials PNM.'

The master of the rolls and Lord Justice Vos agreed.

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