Anonymity Orders

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 stlll 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.

It should be noted that such orders are not without controversy. Recently (July 2022) there have been a couple of judgments where the too easy grant of anonynity has been criticised. Courts still expect that a party going to court must expect to have the details of the judgment publicised widely – explicitly within blogs and on the web generally. This is disappointing news to some such parties, but the points are strongly made.
The power to make Anonymity Orders varies with the court of tribunal involved.
Human Rights

Statute and Regulations

Case Law

As to the wider publication of family proceedings judgments see: Practice Guidance (Transparency in the Family Courts)

See also Practice Guidance – Anonymisation of parties to asylum and immigration cases in the Court of Appeal