R v The Parole Board & Anor [2013]

In M, R (on the application of) v The Parole Board & Anor [2013] EWHC 1360 it was held in the High Court that the media should be able to identify a convicted murderer who had brought proceedings against a Parole Board decision which had stated that he must remain in closed prison conditions rather than recommend the Claimant’s transfer to an open prison.

The Claimant had in April 1973 murdered his landlords’ three children in a horrifically brutal attack. The Claimant had spent almost 40 years in prison, he had been attacked several times and spent a lot of his sentence in segregation.

When in 2011 the Parole board  did not recommend his transfer to an open prison, the Claimant brought a judicial review challenging the Parole Board’s decision applying for an order in the Administrative Court that he should not be identified or his location given.  However the media could still publish accounts about him and the crimes committed apart from any reporting of the judicial review matter.

The Secretary of State and the Parole Board did not oppose the application in an earlier claim where an order was made but where the media were not notified of the application. A member of the press was at that application and subsequently made appropriate representations against the decision to grant anonymity.  Simon J had held in February that an order for anonymity was of a necessity since otherwise the Claimant’s life would be at risk.  A group of media representatives made an application to lift the restriction as to anonymity and the Secretary of State confirmed that the order should not have been given.

The media  relied upon Article 10 ECHR :

“(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information or ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent states from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

(2) The exercise of these freedoms since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, maybe subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interest of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

A balance had to be considered between the media interest under Article 10 to publish (and the public to receive) reports of public proceedings and the Claimant’s convention rights under Articles 2, 3, 5 and 8:

“Article 2 – right to life Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No-one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his convention of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.”

Article 3 – prohibition of torture No-one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman of degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 5 – right to liberty and security (1) Everyone has the right to liberty and security of the person. No-one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law:
(a) The lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court …

(4) Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful …

Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life
(1) Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
(2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as his in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Pitchford LJ and Simon J discharged the order for anonymity with Pitchford LJ saying

“the default position is that the proceedings in the Administrative Court will  be reported” He further said “the underlying, dominant public interest in the reporting of the current proceedings would be the same whether they were publicly or privately funded, or funded by charitable contributions.  Put another way, the fact the proceedings are publically rather than privately funded does not buy access to information which must remain private in the administration of justice or in the necessary protection of the litigants Convention rights.”

In Osman v United Kingdom 1998 it was considered whether

“a risk to the claimant’s life or serious injury will be created or materially increased by the publication of his name as a party to and a witness in the judicial review proceedings”

The Court concluded that “there is at present no real and immediate risk to the Claimant’s life and safety because he is serving his sentence in which his safety can be closely monitored”  The Judges also warned about campaigns launched by the media relating to certain prisoners “there will always be those whose view is that a prisoner convicted of murder, particularly the murder of children, should never be released. If, however, the rule of law is to mean anything the law must apply to all prisoners equally. A media campaign calculated to undermine the lawful progress of a prisoner towards rehabilitation and eventual release (upon the recommendation of the Parole Board and by order of the secretary of State) is as much capable of undermining the rule of law as the secret justice which media organisations rightly view with suspicion”

Anonymity is often needed to protect the life of convicted criminals and witnesses such as Maxine Carr once the girlfriend of Huntley the Soham Murderer and child killer Mary Bell.






Suite 205/206 Cotton Exchange
Bixteth Street, Liverpool L3 9LQ

T — 0151 541 2040
T — 0203 846 2862