An individual who obtained an injunction preventing The Sun from reporting on a sexual relationship in which he was involved is entitled to remain anonymous, a High Court judge held yesterday.
In addition, the newspaper could not continue to publish an article in which it reported that the claimant in the case had persuaded a judge to gag it, said Mrs Justice Sharp.
The continued dissemination of information in that story about the claimant, referred to as MNB, “continues and is likely to increase the risk” that he would be identified, the judge said.
The man initially obtained the injunction from Justice Henriques on 1 March after being told that The Sun intended to report his sexual relationship with another person.
Three days later Mrs Justice Sharp was told The Sun’s publisher no longer opposed the claimant’s application for an interim injunction, which it agreed should continue until a trial or further order.
But issues arose about a story published by The Sun on the previous day [3 March], and on its website, which, Sharp said: “referred to the fact that an individual with a particular occupation had ‘gagged’ ‘The Sun’.”
The claimant said the article led to further newspaper reports, breached the order made by Henriques, and that it amounted to a contempt – a claim denied by News Group Newspapers, The Sun’s publisher.
Sharp ruled yesterday that she was making no finding of contempt, and was not exercising the court’s jurisdiction to restrain an anticipated contempt.
In her judgment she said the purpose of Henriques’ order was to prevent the publication of information that identified or tended to identify the claimant.
Publication of details to which the claimant took particular objection fell within the category of information that tended to lead to his identification.
The subject matter of the action was the affair, she said, adding that “comment by relatives or others which reveal information about the affair (for example, its length, when it occurred, the parties’ reaction to what has occurred, or their current status) is therefore information concerning the subject matter of these proceedings”.
The claimant was likely to establish at trial that he was entitled to an order in the form or substantially in the form made by Henriques, on the grounds that it was necessary to prevent the risk of jigsaw identification, and to protect his article 8 rights in the private information the action was brought to protect and his identification as the person concerned, she said.
Sharp concluded there was no sufficient general public interest in publishing certain information to justify the seriousness of the interference with the claimant’s article 8 rights to respect for his privacy which would occur if he was identified and if the order made by Henriques was undermined.
“The need for such an order has been reinforced by the publications which have taken place since the order made by Mr Justice Henriques,” said Sharp.
The publication of The Sun’s article had “reinforced the need for an order which protects the claimant against the continuing risk of ‘jigsaw’ identification”.
The claimant was entitled to an order that ensures that his rights were protected, and the defendant would “not therefore be entitled to continue to publish the article in its current form”.