Monday, 18 May 2015

Anonymity order will not protect those facing allegations of sexual harassment

In BBC v Roden, the EAT held that a tribunal was wrong to take into account the risk of the public believing in the truth of unproven allegations of sexual harassment against an unfair dismissal claimant when deciding to extend an anonymity order. The public interest in open justice in such a case outweighed the individual’s right to a private life.

The EAT allowed the appeal against the privacy order. The employment judge had failed to carry out a proper balancing exercise between the public interest in open justice and R’s right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Furthermore, the judge’s acceptance that there was a risk that the public would conclude that R had actually committed the alleged offences was not a valid reason for continuing the anonymity order. The Supreme Court established in Guardian News and Media Ltd v City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court 2010 UKSC 1 that the risk of the public drawing unjustified inferences was not a reason for granting anonymity in a case where the unproven allegations related to terrorism offences. The EAT considered that the same principle fell to be applied in the present case. The public interest in open justice is regarded as outweighing the Article 8 rights of a person suspected of a serious criminal offence. The EAT noted that the public has become accustomed to the early identification of such persons (even before charge in many cases) and is trusted to distinguish between an allegation and a finding of guilt.

NB: There is also a useful discussion about Article 8 in relation to anonymity orders.

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