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Court of appeal approves anonymity orders for protected parties

The Court of Appeal has ruled that anonymity orders will be the norm in personal injury cases involving protected parties. There has been a long-running debate among judges over if and when such orders should be made when claims are settled.
The background to the judgement lies in the case of JX, who suffered severe injuries at birth. JX will always remain a protected party – someone who lacks the capacity to conduct proceedings on her own, and who will need a so-called litigation friend to do so on her behalf.
Her claim was settled for a large sum of money, and proceedings were to move to an open court for approval of the settlement. Her mother requested an anonymity order, being concerned at the loss of privacy that would result if the case was reported in the press, and the subsequent likelihood of her being approached for money. The judge disagreed, and the case went to appeal.
The Court of Appeal acknowledged the tension inherent in such cases, where the principle of open justice has to be held against the need to protect vulnerable people from “those who would seek to gain access to the funds that are intended to provide compensation for the injuries in respect of which they were awarded.” The CA reiterated the requirement that any departure from open justice should be justified on the grounds of necessity. In this instance, the CA considered Article 14 ECHR, recognising that children and protected parties are due the same respect for their private lives as adults who would not need to use the courts to settle their claims.
The CA’s decision on the matter was that such cases are equivalent to conducting private business: “In our view the court should recognise that when dealing with an approval application of the kind now under consideration it is dealing with what is essentially private business, albeit in open court, and should normally make an anonymity order in favour of the claimant without the need for any formal application, unless for some reason it is satisfied that it is unnecessary or inappropriate to do so.”
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