Society of Editors condemns 'ridiculous' anonymity injunction
10 November 2017
The Society of Editors has described as ‘ridiculous’ the latest ruling from the courts that has denied only some sections of the UK public from knowing the name of a billionaire accused of an alleged rape in Britain.
As reported in several newspapers, the case is the latest situation where a British court injunction is able to protect the identity of the rich and famous while details are freely available elsewhere in the world.
In the latest case, the billionaire entrepreneur’s own lawyers have confirmed that he was arrested on suspicion of the sex attack as part of a legal claim lodged in the United States.
Yet his identity must remain a secret here in the UK because a previous injunction granted by the British courts is still in force. The injunction does not affect coverage of the case outside England and Wales.
“It is plainly ridiculous that information that is freely available in other countries, and indeed has been made public by the lawyers of the person involved, must still be kept from sections of the British public,” commented Society of Editors Executive Director Ian Murray.
“We have some of the most draconian injunction laws in the world which already enable the rich, famous and powerful to protect their names. For such protection to continue when the rest of the world can easily access information is absurd and also flies in the face of justice.”
The case revolves around 43-year-old American businessman arrested on suspicion of rape in May of this year after a 31-year-old woman said she had been attacked in a London hotel.
The entrepreneur successfully argued for an injunction banning the media in England and Wales from naming him as a rape suspect. The banning order was made against The Sun newspaper but effectively barred all media in England and Wales from naming him.
A few weeks later the police dropped the investigation into the allegations. Earlier this week the businessman launched a legal claim in the US against a public relations firm he claimed had spread lies about him including rumours that he had paid money to settle a sexual assault claim in London. The claims and counter-claims by the PR company have been widely reported in the US where the businessman’s own legal team named him openly.
However, the court injunction in the UK remains in place, barring the UK public from knowing his identity.
“There should be a simple and cost-free method by which such injunctions can be lifted when they become so obviously unfair to the media, the British public and the justice system itself,” added Murray.
“It should not be up to the media to have to fund attempts to persuade the courts to overturn injunctions when they have become pointless and a barrier to common sense.”