Interim Non Disclosure Order
PNM v Times Newspapers Ltd And Ors  EWCA Civ 1132
In the Court of Appeal on the 22nd October 2013, Tugendhat J refused an application for an interim non-disclosure order (a privacy injunction) by the Appellant. The order sought to prevent the disclosure of information. The Appellant wanted to prevent publication of his arrest on suspicion of committing serious sexual offences against children and other information, which would lead to his identification as the person arrested because of his fear of the damage that such publications may cause to him and his family, including his children.
A number of men had been arrested in March 2012 under “Operation Bullfinch” in respect of child sex grooming and prostitution allegations within the Oxford area, together with the Appellant, on suspicion of committing serious sexual offences against children. He was subsequently placed on bail but was never charged by Thames Valley Police. His name, however, had been read out in court in other criminal proceedings, in which he had not been involved. An application had been made to stop further publication of his name which was only granted for a limited time, under s.4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (The 1981 Act).
A further order was applied for on the 25th January 2013 under s.4(2) before one of the victims was to give evidence, in the event that she might name him. She did state that the man who abused her had the same name as the Appellant but she had not previously identified the Appellant as that man. The Oxford Mail objected to the order being made but the Judge granted this to stop the Appellant being identified in the interim until another order could be granted.
Thereafter, on 25th July 2013 he was released without charge. Out of the men arrested, seven were charged and convicted of very serious sexual offences against children. The trial attracted national and local publicity.
The Appellant had argued that publication of his name would link him to the serious sexual offences and thereafter would lead to his identification being known thus having a serious impact on his family and their life.
The Respondents, however, argued that the Appellants rights of privacy were overruled when balanced with the principles governed by Articles 6 and 8 (2) of the European Court of Human Rights that all proceedings should be open to the public. The Respondents argued in favour of the public interest shown in those named in court proceedings but not a party to them and that story would be more interesting for their readers who were following the case. They continued that their report would be fair and state that the Appellant was on bail and not one of those involved in the proceedings.
The Judge acknowledged the impact on the Appellant in respect of his arrest and what had happened to him and his family since then. Further the backlash he and his family would be subjected to. However the Judge, firstly on looking at the case, relied upon the public and their belief in a person being presumed innocent. He acknowledged the problems experienced by the Appellant, despite the restrictions on publication made within 2 days from his arrest. He believed the continuation of the injunction would lead to suspicions about the Appellant and could not stop the public commenting about the case whether their comments were true or false.
The Appellant argued that his children and the evidence supporting the impact on their lives due to the publication of his name should tip the balance to the relief being granted.
On weighing up all the matters, the Judge considered that the Appellant’s application for an interim non disclosure order was unlikely to succeed in any further trials and therefore that there was enough public interest for the reporting of the court proceedings to be published, which included the Appellants name, justifying on the other hand the loss of his and his family’s right to privacy and of a family life within the European Court of Human Rights Act 1998.
On Appeal the Justices, on evaluating the case, made it clear that they would not interfere with the Judge’s decision and would do so only on the grounds if he had made an obvious error on the principles involved or his decision was clearly incorrect.
The Justices, in their conclusion, confirmed that the Judge’s decision was the correct one having been made by him on consideration of all the matters before him. However, the s.42 Orders under the 1981 Act would remain in place until the Appellants application to appeal had been considered or another order had been made.
If there is no appeal then the s.4(2) orders will be lifted and the initials of PNM will be substituted with his full name.