In a majority verdict, five of the seven Supreme Court judges ruled in favour of lifting the anonymity order that Oxford businessman Tariq Khuja had previously been granted. Two of the judges issued dissenting opinions.
The order, which was fought by the Times and Oxford Mail newspapers, prevented the media from identifying Khuja as a person who had been named in open court proceedings during a public trial at the Old Bailey in 2013. That trial saw seven people convicted of sexual offences against children. The order had remained in place despite the fact that there were no "pending or imminent" proceedings which could be prejudiced by such reporting.
Khuja lost his case for a permanent injunction to prevent his name being reported before both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court upheld those decisions after finding that the principles of open justice outweighed any claim Khuja had to privacy.
In his leading judgment in the ruling, Lord Sumption said that "restrictions on reporting proceedings in open court were particularly difficult to justify".
Lord Sumption’s judgment also clarified that, within the limits on reporting imposed by the law of defamation, the way in which a story concerning court proceedings is presented is a matter of editorial judgment, and increasing the interest in the story "by giving it a human face" – such as naming the individuals in question – is a legitimate consideration.
Media disputes lawyer Alex Keenlyside of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "While this decision focused on the fact that Khuja’s identity was referred to in open court, it can be seen as the latest in a line of cases dealing with the extent to which the criminal law process engages individuals’ rights to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights."
"These cases have primarily concerned the early stages of the criminal law process. This was the case, for example, with the proceedings brought by Sir Cliff Richard against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police following the cessation of the investigation into allegations of historic sexual assaults, during which Sir Cliff was never arrested or charged. Another example is the so-called 'JR38' case in 2015 in which the Supreme Court found that the publication of photographs by the police to identify a young person suspected of being involved in riotous behaviour and attempted criminal damage did not engage that individual’s Article 8 rights," Keenlyside said.