Mackenzie: rock star is "hiding behind law"
A millionaire rock star accused of sexual misconduct threatened not to give evidence to an employment tribunal if he was named.
Four media organisations – the South Wales Echo, Associated Newspapers, MGN in Northern Ireland and Ulster Television -lost their argument to have him identified in the face of the threat. The tribunal decided that it would interfere with the administration of justice if he was not heard and used its discretion to grant him anonymity.
His lawyers have since said that if the newspapers and television station report the name of the woman making the allegation in support of an unfair dismissal claim, they would be in breach of the order because it would identify their client.
The Cardiff tribunal – the woman lives locally – gave the media organisations leave to appeal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal within 42 days, but refused to adjourn the hearing on the woman’s application pending the outcome of the appeal.
Cathryn Smith, a partner in solicitors Foot, Anstey and Sargent, who represented all the media companies, told Press Gazette: "The tribunal found in our favour on the points of law that were argued but then exercised their discretion because he was saying in effect that he would not give evidence unless there was a reporting restriction order. That proved fatal."
Smith said this set a precedent in relation to tribunal hearings where any respondent could now say they would not give evidence if they were named.
"We say that decision was wrong because it is not compatible with the Human Rights Act and, secondly, that it puts reporting restrictions before tribunals out on a limb from other restriction orders," she said.
Among the points of law argued by the media companies was that the matter was already in the public domain.
Smith said an appeal was being considered as the media companies await written reasons for the Cardiff tribunal’s decision.
Mark Waldron, deputy editor of the South Wales Echo, said: "We are dismayed by the decision of the tribunal which we feel goes against the principle of open justice. We appreciate that this is not a criminal matter but we do not believe an order on a similar basis would be made by any other court and we are now considering our options on the launch of an appeal."
Craig Mackenzie, regional director of MGN Northern Ireland, said: "What it means is that a rock star can hide behind a law which allows him to proceed with impunity at his own pace while being able to threaten newspapers while they wait the outcome of the tribunal’s decision."
By Jean Morgan