The UK's Supreme Court has rejected an application for a privacy injunction by a man caught up in the Oxford child grooming scandal.
Mr Tariq Khuja (formerly anonymised as PNM) was described as a prominent figure in the Oxford area. In 2012, he was arrested, along with a number of other suspects, as part of a long-running investigation by Thames Valley Police known as "Operation Bullfinch". Although he was eventually released without charge, nine men were brought to trial, seven of whom were convicted of offences including rape and conspiracy to rape children, trafficking and child prostitution. Although Mr Khuja was not a defendant, he was referred to at various times in open court and sought an injunction to prevent his identification in the media. When the High Court and Court of Appeal refused his request, he persisted all the way to the Supreme Court.
Recognising the impact that reports of involvement in criminal proceedings can have on innocent individuals, Lord Sumption described this impact as "collateral damage which is the price that we pay for a transparent system of public justice". Weighing the public interest against Mr Khuja's right to privacy, the court found in favour of open justice.
Coming in the wake of increasing use of what are effectively privacy injunctions in criminal proceedings, the case sets the bar back in favour of open justice. While the trend is now towards anonymity until charge, in this case the applicant had been named in open court, putting him in a different situation to those who have been arrested but never make it into the court room. It must also be relevant that this case concerned allegations of organised child sex abuse which are, as the court noted, a subject of great public concern.
The Supreme Court’s decision to allow The Times to identify the businessman, 40, who was not a defendant at the trial but was named in evidence, marks a significant victory for the freedom of the press to report criminal trials...