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Leveson Inquiry: Journalists Can Remain Anonymous When Giving Evidence, High Court Rules

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Three senior judges ruled today that some journalists can remain anonymous when giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

They dismissed an action brought by the publisher of two newspapers.

Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, had said that its reputation could be unfairly tarnished by anonymous evidence which could not be fully tested or challenged.

Their challenge was against a ruling on the admissibility of anonymous evidence by inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson.
Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Sweeney and Mrs Justice Sharp said in their ruling that it was not for the court to "micromanage the conduct" of the inquiry by its chairman.

In November, Lord Justice Leveson said he would be "prepared to receive anonymous evidence" after some journalists told him that they "feared for their employment" if what they said was attributed to them.

Associated Newspapers sought a judicial review of the ruling asking the judges to declare it unfair.

Lawyers representing Lord Justice Leveson, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and celebrities who have given evidence to the inquiry opposed Associated Newspapers' application.

Lord Justice Leveson said in his ruling: "The inquiry has been approached by a number of individuals, all of whom describe themselves as journalists working for a newspaper or newspapers either on a casual or full-time basis and who wish to provide evidence to the inquiry on the subject of the culture, practices and ethics of the press.

"Each has asked to provide this evidence anonymously and with such other protection that the newspaper or newspapers for which they work or have worked cannot identify them.

"It is clear that the picture which they wish to paint is not entirely consistent with the picture that editors and proprietors have painted of their papers and they fear for their employment if what they say can be attributed to them."

During the hearing of the application by Associated Newspapers, the three judges heard that around 20 journalists were due to give evidence later this month.

Mark Warby QC, for Associated Newspapers, questioned whether it would be fair to allow anonymous evidence which could not be fully tested or challenged.

He told the judges: "The concern is about untested evidence that will tend to tar Associated Newspapers with a broad brush."
In written arguments, he suggested that principles of fairness and open justice were at risk.

"The claimant objects to the decision in principle that certain witnesses should be anonymous, because they fear damage to their careers if they are named," he said.

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