Sportsman wins media gagging order appeal

A well-known sportsman who obtained an order stopping the media publishing information about his private life today won an appeal against a ruling which would reveal his identity.

The man, referred to in court as JIH, asked a panel of three judges headed by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, to reverse an earlier ruling by High Court judge Justice Tugendhat.

Lord Neuberger, outlining the facts in a judgment today which he said could be published, said the sportsman had been in a long-term relationship with another person, referred to as XX.

“Since his relationship with XX had started, but before August 2010, a story had been published, without JIH having received any prior notice, suggesting that he had a sexual liaison with another person, who I shall call YY.”

“The story whose publication JIH is seeking to prevent concerns an alleged sexual encounter he had with a different person, to whom I shall refer as ZZ, last year.”

When JIH discovered that News Group Newspapers intended to publish a story based on information provided by ZZ, he began the present proceedings without revealing his identity.

He also sought an order preventing publication of any information about an alleged sexual relationship with ZZ during his relationship with XX which was served on seven other media companies.

When the matter came before Justice Tugendhat he decided that he was not prepared to make the order, even though NGN had accepted it, without hearing argument.

The High Court judge, after a hearing, approved the order regarding the private information, but refused to continue an order granting the sportsman anonymity.

He said JIH had not shown to the necessary high standard that the object of achieving justice in the case would be rendered doubtful if the anonymity order were not made.

JIH appealed, and Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing him, told the three judges at a hearing earlier this month that the public had a right to know why the injunction was granted but no right to know anything about the private information.

He said any judgment on the matter could refer to the information but all the parties should be anonymised.

“The effect of the judge’s order would be to put this claimant’s life into the media spotlight – a huge intrusion into his private life.”

He added: “If it was reported that a celebrity had obtained an injunction prohibiting publication of something in his life there is obviously going to be huge speculation about what is going on.”

Lord Neuberger said in the appeal court ruling: “If the media could publish the name of the claimant and the substance of the information which he is seeking to exclude from the public domain, then the whole purpose of the injunction would be undermined, and the claimant’s private life many be unlawfully exposed.”

He added: “If we permitted JIH’s identity to be revealed without permitting the nature of the information of which he is seeking to restrain to be published, then it would nonetheless be relatively easy for the media and members of the public to deduce the nature of that information; it would be a classic, if not very difficult, jigsaw exercise.”

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