Regina (on the application of C) v Secretary of State for Justice: SC 27 Jan 2016

The applicant was a convicted murderer who had been held in a high security mental hospital. His application for unescorted leave had been refused, and he wished to challenge the decisions. Anonymity in the subsequent proceedings had been refused to him, but retained pending the appeal.
Held: His appeal was allowed: ‘an anonymity order is necessary in the interests of this particular patient. His regime before he left hospital, involving escorted leave in the community, demonstrated the need for anonymity and the case is even stronger now.’
‘The central issue was the interests of the patient, and, although there is no presumption of anonymity for mental patients that element was one element.
In this case the identity of the person involved was central to the point of public interest, but was outweighed by the public interest in the administration of justice. The conduct of the case would require disclosure of sensitive and highly personal clinical data as to psychiatric patients serving sentences of imprisonment, which would have undermined confidential clinical relationships and thereby reduced the efficacy of the system for judicial oversight of the Home Secretary’s decisions.
Lady Hale said: ‘The principle of open justice is one of the most precious in our law. It is there to reassure the public and the parties that our courts are indeed doing justice according to law. In fact, there are two aspects to this principle. The first is that justice should be done in open court, so that the people interested in the case, the wider public and the media can know what is going on. The court should not hear and take into account evidence and arguments that they have not heard or seen. The second is that the names of the people whose cases are being decided, and others involved in the hearing, should be public knowledge. ‘
and: ‘The question in all these cases is that set out in CPR 39.2(4): is anonymity necessary in the interests of the patient? It would be wrong to have a presumption that an order should be made in every case. There is a balance to be struck. The public has a right to know, not only what is going on in our courts, but also who the principal actors are. This is particularly so where notorious criminals are involved. They need to be reassured that sensible decisions are being made about them. On the other hand, the purpose of detention in hospital for treatment is to make the patient better, so that he is no longer a risk either to himself or to others. That whole therapeutic enterprise may be put in jeopardy if confidential information is disclosed in a way which enables the public to identify the patient. It may also be put in jeopardy unless patients have a reasonable expectation in advance that their identities will not be disclosed without their consent. In some cases, that disclosure may put the patient himself, and perhaps also the hospital, those treating him and the other patients there, at risk. The public’s right to know has to be balanced against the potential harm, not only to this patient, but to all the others whose treatment could be affected by the risk of exposure.’


Lady Hale, Deputy President, Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes


[2016] UKSC 2, [2016] HRLR 7, [2016] WLR(D) 34, [2016] EMLR 13, 149 BMLR 1, (2016) 149 BMLR 1, (2016) 19 CCL Rep 5, [2016] 1 WLR 444, UKSC 2014/0210


Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC, SC Summary


European Convention on Human Rights 6(1)


England and Wales


CitedScott v Scott HL 5-May-1913
Presumption in Favour of Open Proceedings
There had been an unauthorised dissemination by the petitioner to third parties of the official shorthand writer’s notes of a nullity suit which had been heard in camera. An application was made for a committal for contempt.
Held: The House . .
CitedM, Regina (on The Application of) v The Parole Board and Another Admn 22-May-2013
(Jan 2013) The court was asked whether an order for anonymity made in the course of proceedings for judicial review should be discharged upon the application of media and other interested parties. Various newspapers had applied for the order to be . .
CitedB v The United Kingdom; P v The United Kingdom ECHR 24-Apr-2001
The procedures in English law which provided for privacy for proceedings involving children did not in general infringe the human right to family life, nor the right to a public hearing. Where relatives more distant than immediate parties were . .
CitedIn re S (a Child) (Identification: Restrictions on Publication) HL 28-Oct-2004
Inherent High Court power may restrain Publicity
The claimant child’s mother was to be tried for the murder of his brother by poisoning with salt. It was feared that the publicity which would normally attend a trial, would be damaging to S, and an application was made for reporting restrictions to . .
CitedAttorney General’s Reference No 3 of 1999: Application By the British Broadcasting Corporation To Set Aside or Vary a Reporting Restriction Order HL 17-Jun-2009
An application was made to discharge an anonymity order made in previous criminal proceedings before the House. The defendant was to be retried for rape under the 2003 Act, after an earlier acquittal. The applicant questioned whether such a order . .
CitedIn re Guardian News and Media Ltd and Others; HM Treasury v Ahmed and Others SC 27-Jan-2010
Proceedings had been brought to challenge the validity of Orders in Council which had frozen the assets of the claimants in those proceedings. Ancillary orders were made and confirmed requiring them not to be identified. As the cases came to the . .
CitedA v British Broadcasting Corporation (Scotland) SC 8-May-2014
Anonymised Party to Proceedings
The BBC challenged an order made by the Court of Session in judicial review proceedings, permitting the applicant review to delete his name and address and substituting letters of the alphabet, in the exercise (or, as the BBC argues, purported . .
CitedMersey Care NHS Trust, Regina (on the Application of) v Mental Health Review Tribunal and others Admn 22-Jul-2004
Proceedings before the Mental Health Review Tribnal had been very nearly all held in private. The patient, Ian Brady sought to have his hearing in public.
Held: Beatson J approved the Tribunal’s reasons forfind that their privacy rules were a . .
CitedM, Regina (on The Application of) v The Parole Board and Another Admn 22-May-2013
(Jan 2013) The court was asked whether an order for anonymity made in the course of proceedings for judicial review should be discharged upon the application of media and other interested parties. Various newspapers had applied for the order to be . .
CitedC v Secretary of State for Justice Admn 2014
The claimant sought to challenge a refusal to him, as a long standing convicted murderer of unsupervised leave from prison as part of a path to release. He was detained in a secure mental hosptal. The court now considered whether the claimant and . .
CitedRegina v East London and the City Mental Health NHS Trust and Another ex parte Von Brandenburg (Aka Hanley) HL 13-Nov-2003
The patient was ordered to be discharged and released from hospital. The tribunal making the order had not accepted the medical recommendations. His release was deferred pending the finding of accommodation, but in the meantime, a social worker . .
CitedAH v West London MHT UTAA 29-Jul-2010
Prisoner in secure hospital – application for public hearig of request for discharge – refused . .
CitedAH v West London MHT (J) UTAA 17-Feb-2011
Order for public hearing of detention review under Mental Health Act – at request of AH. . .

Cited by:

CitedPNM v Times Newspapers Ltd and Others SC 19-Jul-2017
No anonymity for investigation suspect
The claimant had been investigated on an allegation of historic sexual abuse. He had never been charged, but the investigation had continued with others being convicted in a high profile case. He appealed from refusal of orders restricting . .
CitedXXX v Camden London Borough Council CA 11-Nov-2020
Anonymity in Court Proceedings – No two stage test
XXX appealed against the refusal to make orders anonymising her name and redacting certain details from published judgments. The appeal raised a point about the proper approach to applications for anonymisation under CPR 39.2. She brought . .
CitedImam, Regina (on The Application of) v The London Borough of Croydon (Anonymity request) Admn 26-Mar-2021
Anonymity Not Necessary under CPR 3.92.
Judgment on the Claimant’s application for an order under CPR 39.2(4) that her name be anonymised in these proceedings by the use of a cipher and that restrictions should be imposed on the reporting of her identity. She said that publication of her . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Media, Health, Human Rights

Updated: 12 October 2022; Ref: scu.559351