Rapist not granted anonymity after media challenge

The Hull Daily Mail (or its reporter) has successfully challenged an anonymity application to ensure a convicted rapist was able t be named.

David Bullock had raped a girl at knifepoint back in 1982 and was after nearly 30 years finally caught up in a police cold case operation after his DNA was matched from another crime scene in 2007. Bullock admitted the crimes but sought an anonymity order based on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)that provides for the protection of privacy in relation to respect for a private and family life. His argument was that his anonymity should be preserved to protect his children.

This is a tricky area in that there is a rationale for protecting his children and their right to privacy being preserved - its not their fault and will have come as a shock to them that their father is a rapist. On the other hand it is an essential cornerstone of the legal process that justice is seen to be done and that someone like Bullock should not be allowed to hide behind the privacy rights of his children to protect himself being rightfully named and shamed for his crime.

The exception his lawyer was looking to invoke on his behalf was section 11 of the 1981 Contempt of Court Act that provides: “In any case where a court (having power to do so) allows a name or other matter to be withheld from the public in proceedings before the court, the court may give such directions prohibiting the publication of that name or matter in connection with the proceedings as appear to the court to be necessary for the purpose for which it was so withheld”. In other words a court could order anonymity if it considered the purpose of the order to be to protect Bullock's children - as it happens it did not.

Hull Daily Mail reporter Nicky Harley was particularly persuasive in her petitioning of the Crown Court as to why anonymity should not be granted. She produced a note from a law firm that detailed why the anonymity order should not be granted and that note equally persuasively cited the Court of Appeal decision in a 2008 judgment Re Trinity Mirror - [2008] EWCA Crim 50 [2008] 3 WLR 51 - for those (like Mediabeak) who like reading the actual law reports - in that case an order had been made protecting the identity of a defendant who pleaded guilty to possessing indecent images of children. The order was made in the interests of his own children. The Court of Appeal held however that the order should not have been made. The ability of the media to report criminal trials embodied open justice; an important part of the administration of criminal justice was that the identity of those convicted and sentenced for criminal offences should not be concealed. The shame brought to innocent family members, and the perhaps considerable difficulties which they would face, were the consequences of the commission of the offence, and could not warrant anonymity for a defendant save in wholly exceptional circumstances.

The judge was duly persuaded and rejected the anonymity order.

Mediabeak thinks this is the right solution in what is a difficult balance between the rights of the public to know and freedom of expression under Article 10 of ECHR balanced against the right to Article 8 privacy rights. What the Court of Appeal in the Trinity Mirror case concluded (and which has been cited in subsequent cases) is that the gravity of the original crime will provide direction as to the liklihood of Article 10 trumping Article 8 except in 'wholly exceptional circumstances' such as where it could be shown that there was an imminent danger to others the was proportionately serious to merit granting anonymity for their ultimate benefit.

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