X Ltd v Morgan-Grampian (Publishers) Ltd: HL 1990

In a case where a contemnor not only fails wilfully and contumaciously to comply with an order of the court but makes it clear that he will continue to defy the court’s authority if the order should be affirmed on appeal, the court must have a discretion to decline to entertain his appeal against the order.
Lord Bridge of Harwich said: ‘But the question whether disclosure is necessary in the interests of justice gives rise to a more difficult problem of weighing one public interest against another. A question arising under this part of section 10 has not previously come before your Lordships’ House for decision. In discussing the section generally Lord Diplock said in Secretary of State for Defence v Guardian Newspapers Ltd [1985] AC 339: ‘The exceptions include no reference to ‘the public interest’ generally and I would add that in my view the expression ‘justice’, the interests of which are entitled to protection, is not used in a general sense as the antonym of ‘injustice’ but in the technical sense of the administration of justice in the course of legal proceedings in a court of law, or, by reason of the extended definition of ‘court’ in section 19 of the Act of 1981, before a tribunal or body exercising the judicial power of the state.’
I agree entirely with the first half of this dictum. To construe ‘justice’ as the antonym of ‘injustice’ in section 10 would be far too wide. Bu$t to confine it to ‘the technical sense of the administration of justice in the course of legal proceedings in a court of law’ seems to me, with all respect due to any dictum of the late Lord Diplock, to be too narrow. It is, in my opinion, ‘in the interests of justice’, in the sense in which this phrase is used in section 10, that persons should be enabled to exercise important legal rights and to protect themselves from serious legal wrongs whether or not resort to legal proceedings in a court of law will be necessary to attain these objectives. Thus, to take a very obvious example, if an employer of a large staff is suffering grave damage from the activities of an unidentified disloyal servant, it is undoubtedly in the interests of justice that he should be able to identify him in order to terminate his contract of employment, notwithstanding that no legal proceedings may be necessary to achieve that end.
Construing the phrase ‘in the interests of justice’ in this sense immediately emphasises the importance of the balancing exercise. It will not be sufficient, per se, for a party seeking disclosure of a source protected by section 10 to show merely that he will be unable without disclosure to exercise the legal right or avert the threatened legal wrong on which he bases his claim in order to establish the necessity of disclosure. The judge’s task will always be to weigh in the scales the importance of enabling the ends of justice to be attained in the circumstances of the particular case on the one hand against the importance of protecting the source on the other hand. In this balancing exercise it is only if the judge is satisfied that disclosure in the interests of justice is of such preponderating importance as to override the statutory privilege against disclosure that the threshold of necessity will be reached.’
Lord Bridge of Harwich said: ‘Whether the necessity of disclosure in this sense is established is certainly a question of fact rather than an issue calling for the exercise of the judge’s discretion, but, like many other questions of fact, such as the question whether somebody has acted reasonably in given circumstances, it will call for the exercise of a discriminating and sometimes difficult value judgment. In estimating the weight to be attached to the importance of disclosure in the interests of justice on the one hand and that of protection from disclosure in pursuance of the policy which underlies section 10 on the other hand, many factors will be relevant on both sides of the scale.’
Lord Bridge of Harwich, Lord Oliver
[1991] 1 AC 1, [1990] 2 All ER 1, [1990] 2 WLR 1000
Contempt of Court Act 1981 810
England and Wales
ApprovedHadkinson v Hadkinson CA 1952
The courts adopt an approach similar to that of the United States courts where there has been a significant contempt on the part of a party to litigation. Denning LJ said: ‘Those cases seem to me to point the way to the modern rule. It is a strong . .
AppliedSecretary of State for Defence v Guardian Newspapers Ltd (Tisdall Case) HL 1984
Lord Diplock discussed section 10 of the 1981 Act, saying: ‘The exceptions include no reference to ‘the public interest’ generally and I would add that in my view the expression ‘justice’, the interests of which are entitled to protection, is not . .

Cited by:
CitedCamelot Group plc v Centaur Communications Limited CA 23-Oct-1997
An order for a journalist to disclose the name of an employee disclosing his employer’s information, may be made where there was a need to identify a disloyal employee. Here drafts of accounts had been released to embarrass the company. The . .
CitedMotorola Credit Corporation v Uzan and others (No 2) CA 12-Jun-2003
World-wide freezing orders had been made under the 1982 Act. The defendants were members of a Turkish family with substantial business interests in the telecommunications industry. In breach of orders made in the US some defendants had sought to . .
CitedArab Monetary Fund v Hashim and Others CA 21-Mar-1994
It is wrong to take as a starting point the proposition that the court will not hear a party in contempt but then to ask if the instant case falls within an exception to that general rule. It is preferable to ask whether, in the circumstances of an . .
CitedReynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd and others HL 28-Oct-1999
Fair Coment on Political Activities
The defendant newspaper had published articles wrongly accusing the claimant, the former Prime Minister of Ireland of duplicity. The paper now appealed, saying that it should have had available to it a defence of qualified privilege because of the . .
CitedPolanski v Conde Nast Publications Ltd HL 10-Feb-2005
The claimant wished to pursue his claim for defamation against the defendant, but was reluctant to return to the UK to give evidence, fearing arrest and extradition to the US. He appealed refusal of permission to be interviewed on video tape. Held . .
CitedAshworth Security Hospital v MGN Limited HL 27-Jun-2002
Order for Journalist to Disclose Sources
The newspaper published details of the medical records of Ian Brady, a prisoner and patient of the applicant. The applicant sought an order requiring the defendant newspaper to disclose the identity of the source of material which appeared to have . .
CitedMersey Care NHS Trust v Ackroyd QBD 7-Feb-2006
The trust, operators of Ashworth Secure Hospital sought from the defendant journalist disclosure of the name of their employee who had revealed to the defendant matters about the holding of Ian Brady, the Moors Murderer, and in particular medical . .
CitedMersey Care NHS Trust v Ackroyd CA 21-Feb-2007
The defendant journalist had published confidential material obtained from the claimant’s secure hospital at Ashworth. The hospital now appealed against the refusal of an order for him to to disclose his source.
Held: The appeal failed. Given . .
CitedAMM v HXW QBD 7-Oct-2010
The claimant had sought and been granted an injunction to prevent the defendant publicising matters which had passed between them and which were he said private.
Held: The jurisdiction to grant such injunctions was now established. Publication . .
CitedThe Rugby Football Union v Consolidated Information Services Ltd SC 21-Nov-2012
The Union challenged the right of the respondent to resell tickets to international rugby matches. The tickets were subject to a condition rendering it void on any resale at above face value. They said that the respondent had advertised tickets in . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 22 October 2021; Ref: scu.181789