October 3rd, 2022 by James Goudie KC

In Plymouth City Council v ABC (2022) EWHC 2426 (Ch) the Council claims that the defendant downloaded personal data and confidential information otherwise than for the purpose of carrying out her duties as an employee of the Council and without the Council’s consent. The defendant applied for anonymity. This has been refused. The issue was the effect if any of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. That Act does not confer power on the Court to order that any party to proceedings should be anonymised. What it does do is to make it a criminal offence to identify certain persons in any publication thereafter. The question was whether the Act applies where there are no criminal proceedings in which an allegation of a relevant offence has been made. There was no clear authority on the point, albeit Sales J as he then was had, in National Westminster Bank v Lucas (2014) EWHC 653 (Ch), the Jimmy Saville case, expressed doubt that the Act had the effect of granting anonymity outside the context of criminal proceedings, and Keenan J in Birmingham City Council v Riaz (2016) 1 FLR 797 did not appear to consider that the 1992 Act was engaged. The Judge in the Plymouth case concluded, at paragraph 30,  that the Act applies only where a formal allegation is made in criminal proceedings, that is, where a criminal charge has been made.

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