The court system has acknowledged that the movement toward wider and wider publication of case law (of which we form part) has potential conflicts with privacy in general, and GDPR and Human Rights in particular. There have therefore been developed much more explicit systems for applying to court for ‘anonymity orders’ – an order that nobody should allow identification of one or more parties to the case, and there appear to be more and more such orders being made. We happily abide by such orders without question. If such orders are made by the court before publication of a case, the form in wich it comes to us is already properly limited, but, where a case comes to be anonymised after publication, there is no system in place to inform us. We can only therefore act if either it comes to our attention (randomly) or somebody informs us.
We can only respond by limiting what appears on our site. By the time it gets here, it is very often also available on several other sites. The only true and effective answer to a litigant’s desire for anonymity lies in an order for that purpose made by the court. This is, however, an ‘after the bird has flown the nest’ situation. If you do get such an order after the judgment has been published it will stll be for you to bring the order to the attention of the sites involved. If you do this, we believe that each will very happily go along with the court order. Without it each will be in need some persuasion.
We have come across cases where a simple letter to the judge involved afterwards has been sufficient to generate an order. This will usually be far more effective to limit identfication of a party, than a request made direct to us. We can only effect what appears here.
As to the procedure, we are unable to help beyond saying that any such letter should be very carefully thought through, and it is worth attending closely to the links provided below. Get professional help if needed. Merely emotional calls will generally fall on deaf ears. Do not understimate the complexity and need for accuracy. It can be a very flexible jurisdiction and powerful. It is becoming to well travelled, that the absence of such an order tends now to indicate that we might have additional doubts about an overly generous reaponse on our part.
Properly anonymised data is no longer personal data (Recital 26 UK GDPR). A court which anoymises a case will typically go through the text and remove any method of linking back that casse to the individual involved. Those site whoch receive that text will then usually install the anonymised version instead. If the court does not anonymise the text then all we can do is to pseudonymise the case. We then retain our duties under the GDPR, having gone still some way to satisfying its requirements..
The power to make Anonymity Orders varies with the court of tribunal involved.
- European Convention on Human Rights See particularly article 8 (balanced by Article 10)
- Human Rights Act 1998 section 12
Statute and Regulations
- Contempt of Court Act 1981 section 11
- High Court – Civil Procedure Rules 5.4C and 5.4D, and 39(2)(4) (the Civil Procedure Rules web-site is due to be moved at some point (as at September 2021). We hope that a redirect will be available.)
- Family Procedure Rules
- Civil Procedure Rules 39.2(4)
- Criminal Procedure Rules 2020
- PNM v Times Newspapers Ltd and Others SC 19/07/2017
Cokaj (Anonymity Orders, Jurisdiction and Ambit) (Albania)  UKUT 202 (IAC) 19/07/2021 – several hepful points (First Tier Tribunals)
- and TYU v ILA SPA Ltd EAT 16 September 2021 – Employment Tribunals.
- A useful recent case is Imam, Regina (on The Application of) v The London Borough of Croydon  EWHC 736 (Admin)
The applicant here had her anonymity application rejected, but the Court provided a useful explanation of how such orders are to be made, and what legal criteria apply.
- XXX v Camden London Borough Council: CA 11 Nov 2020 A good guide to the application of CPR 39. Fine starting point for looking at the practice on this issue.
- Regina v T CACD Oct 2021. Here the appellant was a former police informer appealing from his sentence. The case is of interest for other reasons, but it is worth noting that the court went as far as anonymising two of the three Lords Justices hearing the appeal, and all lawyers involved so as to preserve that anonymity. The case involved a unique sensitivity, and the court demonstrated the flexibility of its procedures to reflect that need.
- A v Burke and Hare (Practice and Procedure – Anonymity)
EAT 13 Oct 2021
The claimant was a stripper. It was held that the potential stigma was insufficient to support the grant of an anonymity order. The Court was prepared to grant anonymity limited to the application for an order alone.