Sex offender mayor fails in press privacy bid

A former Conservative mayor who was placed on the sex offenders’ register after being cautioned for possessing indecent images of children has failed in a bid to stop the media revealing that he is taking legal action against the police.

A former Conservative mayor who was placed on the sex offenders’ register after being cautioned for possessing indecent images of children has failed in a bid to stop the media revealing that he is taking legal action against the police.

David Lee, 47, who was mayor of Chelmsford, Essex, has launched a High Court challenge to quash the caution given to him by Essex Police three years ago.

Today he asked two judges sitting at the High Court in London to order that journalists covering the proceedings should not be allowed to disclose his identity because of the “impact” coverage would have on his family.

But Lord Justice Aikens and Mrs Justice Swift refused Lee’s application, saying the general principle of open justice had to apply.

Lee, a former member of Chelmsford Borough Council, was given permission today to pursue a judicial review of Essex Police’s actions.

A date for a hearing of legal arguments has yet to be fixed.

Lee’s case was reported in 2007 and 2008 and featured in local media reports and on at least one national newspaper website.

Solicitor Leslie Thomas, for Lee, argued today that his client should not be identified in media reports of the High Court proceedings.

Judges should consider the effect coverage had, and would have, on Lee’s family, Thomas said.

He also suggested that publication of identity might breach Lee’s right to privacy.

“It is the impact these allegations have had on the claimant’s family,” Thomas told judges.

“The court and the public has a right to know. That does have to be balanced in relation to the impact on this individual’s private and family life in Article 8 of the European Convention (on Human Rights).”

Lord Justice Aikens said he did not see what “principle of law” could be applied to give Lee the right to anonymity.

“The general principle, as everyone has been reminded of so recently, is that of open justice,” said the judge. “[Claimants] have to be identified unless there is a good reason not to.”

He told Thomas: “We are against you. It (the case) will be listed with the applicant’s full name in the normal manner.”

The case was today listed on court papers as “DL v Chief Constable of Essex Police” and a court clerk said an “anonymity” order had been imposed at an earlier stage.

Lord Justice Aikens said he did not know who had made the order – and said it must be lifted.

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