Venables and Thompson v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2001]

  • Created by: channyx
  • Created on: 20-03-20 21:48

An application by the father and uncle of James Bulger to vary or discharge the injunction which had conferred lifelong anonymity on Jon Venables was refused. It had not been established that his identity had been accurately described in material that was publicly available on the internet so as to justify reducing the level of confidentiality.

The applicants applied to vary an anonymity order in respect of the first claimant.

The claimants, when aged 10 years old, had abducted, brutally tortured and murdered two-year-old James Bulger. They were convicted of murder and detained. In 2001 an injunction had been granted giving them anonymity as adults because of the strong possibility that on release from prison they would face a risk of harm. Following the first claimant's release on licence in 2010 he was convicted of child *********** offences.

The anonymity injunction was reviewed and retained because of the continuing risk of harm. In 2018, he was convicted of further child *********** offences. The applicants, who were James Bulger's father and paternal uncle, applied to vary the 2001 injunction so as to permit the reporting of alternative names used by the first claimant and information about his whereabouts and activities.

The applicants argued that there was material readily available to anyone undertaking an ordinary internet search that would identify a name used by the first claimant, and that the law should not be protecting material that was common knowledge.

Held: Application refused.

The legal context - A balance had to be struck between the competing rights of the applicants and the wider public, which were in favour of openness and transparency, against those of the first claimant. If the first claimant's rights under ECHR art.2 and/or art.3 were at risk of being breached, that factor was not a trump card and it remained necessary for the court to strike a balance as against the art.10 rights of the applicants and others. The test was whether there was a real risk of harm of the degree described…


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