X, A Woman Formerly Known As Mary Bell v Stephen O’Brien, News Group Newspapers Ltd MGN Ltd: QBD 21 May 2003

An injunction effective against the world, was granted to restrain any act to identify the claimant in the media, including the Internet. She had been convicted of murder when a child, and had since had a child herself. An order had been granted protecting her and her child until the child was 18. She now sought continuation of that order.
Held: The court has to be extremely cautious in approaching applications for lifetime anonymity under article 8. It could not be said in this case that the applicants faced threats to their lives. Nevertheless, Mary Bell still suffered mental health problems. It was impossible to separate out the life of her daughter even though an adult. The public interest had been served by full discussion of the case, and the only matters sought to be ptotected were those relating to identity. ‘It would be wrong for the court to find that the notoriety which may follow the commission of serious offences would of itself entitle the offender upon release from prison to injunctions based upon the interference to his private and family life caused by press intrusion. That would open the floodgates to widespread injunctions for criminals and would be contrary to the protection rightly afforded to freedom of expression . . ‘ In this case the balance lay in favour of the grant of the injunction.

Right Honourable Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the President of the Family Division
[2003] EWHC QB 1101, [2003] 2 FCR 686
European Convention on Human Rights 8 10
England and Wales
CitedRe X (A Minor)(Wardship Injunction) 1984
An order was made preventing the identification of Mary Bell. She had been convicted of murder as a child, after leaving prison and taking a new identity, she had a child, and the order was made to protect the child until she was 18. . .
CitedAttorney-General v Guardian Newspapers Ltd (No 2) (‘Spycatcher’) HL 13-Oct-1988
Loss of Confidentiality Protection – public domain
A retired secret service employee sought to publish his memoirs from Australia. The British government sought to restrain publication there, and the defendants sought to report those proceedings, which would involve publication of the allegations . .
CitedCampbell v Mirror Group Newspapers plc CA 14-Oct-2002
The newspaper appealed against a finding that it had infringed the claimant’s privacy by publishing a photograph of her leaving a drug addiction clinic.
Held: The claimant had courted publicity, and denied an involvement in drugs. The defence . .
CitedX and Y v The Netherlands ECHR 26-Mar-1985
A parent complained to the police about a sexual assault on his daughter a mentally defective girl of 16. The prosecutor’s office decided not to prosecute provided the accused did not repeat the offence. X appealed against the decision and requested . .
CitedBotta v Italy ECHR 24-Feb-1998
The claimant, who was disabled, said that his Article 8 rights were infringed because, in breach of Italian law, there were no facilities to enable him to get to the sea when he went on holiday.
Held: ‘Private life . . includes a person’s . .
CitedBensaid v The United Kingdom ECHR 6-Feb-2001
The applicant was a schizophrenic and an illegal immigrant. He claimed that his removal to Algeria would deprive him of essential medical treatment and sever ties that he had developed in the UK that were important for his well-being. He claimed . .
CitedNicholls v BBC 1999
Injunction granted to protect new identity of ‘supergrass’ . .
CitedA v B plc and Another (Flitcroft v MGN Ltd) CA 11-Mar-2002
A newspaper company appealed against an order preventing it naming a footballer who, they claimed, had been unfaithful to his wife.
Held: There remains a distinction between the right of privacy which attaches to sexual activities within and . .
CitedVenables and Thompson v News Group Newspapers and others QBD 8-Jan-2001
Where it was necessary to protect life, an order could be made to protect the privacy of individuals, by disallowing publication of any material which might identify them. Two youths had been convicted of a notorious murder when they were ten, and . .
CitedRe D (a minor) (adoption order: validity) 1991
The grant of an injunction during the continuance of a wardship does not of itself entitle a child to a continuing injunction after reaching adulthood. . .

Cited by:
CitedE v Channel Four, News International Ltd and St Helens Borough Council FD 1-Jun-2005
The applicant sought an order restraining publication by the defendants of material, saying she did not have capacity to consent to the publication. She suffered a multiple personality disorder. She did herself however clearly wish the film to be . .
CitedIn re A (A Minor) FD 8-Jul-2011
An application was made in care proceedings for an order restricting publication of information about the family after the deaths of two siblings of the child subject to the application. The Sun and a local newspaper had already published stories . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Media, Human Rights

Updated: 12 January 2022; Ref: scu.185469