Police officers lose bid to stop media publishing addresses

Two senior police officers facing trial on criminal charges failed in an attempt to overturn a decision to make their addresses public.

Chief Superintendent Adrian Harper, Divisional Commander for East Surrey, and Superintendent Jonathan Johncox, of the West Surrey division, each sought an order to banning the media from reporting their addresses.

Aldershot magistrates refused to pass the order, made in August last year as the pair appeared on misconduct charges relating to alleged speeding offences.

But on the evening of the hearing the two officers obtained a temporary injunction from Justice Jack banning publication of their addresses.

They also applied for Judicial Review of the magistrates’ decision, and an order continuing the ban imposed by Justice Jack.

Yesterday the Administrative Court rejected their application, saying that they had failed to show any justification for interfering with the principle of open justice.

Lord Justice Pill, sitting with Justice Rafferty, said that Michael Egan QC, for the officers, had argued that while no special plea was being made for the claimants on the ground that they were senior police officers, the evidence showed that there was a genuine concern for their safety and that of their families.

Egan argued that publishing the addresses of officers in this position might deter them and other officers from doing challenging and difficult work in the course of their duties.

Lord Justice Pill said: “There is, in my judgment, a burden on the claimants to establish not only that the derogation they seek is in the circumstances a very limited one but also that there is a justification in the particular case for interfering at all with the principle of open justice.

“In my judgment, they have failed to do so …

“If there is a risk, it would not in the circumstances be enhanced by publication of addresses. On the information the claimants give, any approach to them is likely to be a targeted one which would not be deterred by the need to discover a home address.

“While the charges against the claimants are serious they are unlikely to provoke that response by vigilantes which occasionally occurs in some categories of offence, for example, charges involving abuse of young children.

“Moreover, it is inconceivable that these or other police officers would be deterred from performing their duties if it is known that their addresses would be disclosed in circumstances such as the present. I would accept that the proper performance of police duties is, for present purposes, an integral part of the administration of justice but I can see no adverse impact in this case.”

Press Association and the Surrey Advertiser, published by Surrey & Berkshire Media, were involved in proceedings as interested parties in the judicial review, the application for which was refused as the order made by Justice Jack was discharged.

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