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Court grants permanent injunction to protect identity of two youths

Written by Mark Reed on 03 April 2017

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A (A Protected Party) v Persons Unknown [2017] E.M.L.R. 11.

Facts

Two unknown youths were sentenced to indeterminate detention when they were 12 and 10 years old for grievous bodily harm with intent on two young victims. To protect the identities of both the youths, section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 was applied. This was after the media released information about the incident, and caused uproar, with public outrage and disgust.

The issue came several years later when the two youths were released, now 18 years old and subsequently meant that section 39 will no longer apply. Even though they had both changed their names, the two youths argued that to release their names would infringe on their human rights. The issue was considered by psychologists and the heads of the Parole Board and Youth Justice Board, which led to the consensus that if their names were released, it would affect their rehabilitation programme, and cause a significant risk to their wellbeing. More notably, it was found that the imminent hostile media would not help matters, ostensibly resulting in momentous abuse from the public.

The court had jurisdiction in exceptional cases to extend confidentiality protection and impose press restrictions where there was convincing evidence that not doing so was likely to lead to serious physical injury or death for the person seeking confidentiality, and where there was no other way to protect them.

Held

The judge considered the age of which the offenses were committed but also had to consider the Human Rights Act 1998 s.12, which required the court to have particular regard to the importance of the art.10 right (Freedom of Expression). Essentially, anonymity could only be granted where there was an absolute necessity for doing so in any particular case.

In the instant case, the judge found that the witness evidence, press coverage and internet posts all pointed to the conclusion that if the claimants' identities were revealed they would be at extremely serious risk of physical harm, as well as undoubted fear and psychological harm. So, at (paras 36-43) the judge held that he had no choice but to grant anonymity on the grounds of the inevitable violation of the claimants' art.2, art.3 and art.8 rights. The risk of that violation, in the extremely unusual circumstances, outweighed the important art.10 right for the press etc to release their names.
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