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Supreme Court allows anonymity for reintegrated offender

Baroness considered balance between public right to information and potential harm to appellant

27 January 2016

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The Supreme Court has granted an appeal against the refusal to maintain an anonymity order protecting a former mental health patient.

The appeal centred on whether anonymity was necessary in the interests of the appellant in accordance with Civil Procedure Rules 31.2(4).

In her judgment, Lady Hale said a balance must be struck between the public right to information involving notorious criminals and the potential harm to the patient should they be exposed.

The Supreme Court's vice president decided there was a risk to the appellant from members of the public and that he was more likely to lead a successful life in the community if his identity was not known.

The anonymity order was deemed necessary, in light of a 'real risk that his long years of treatment and reintegration into the community would not succeed'.

The appellant, who had a history of mental health problems, was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend and her partner in 1997.

While serving a life sentence, he was transferred to a high security psychiatric hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 for psychiatric treatment.

A restriction order was placed upon the appellant, meaning he could not be granted a leave of absence, transferred to another hospital, or discharged without the consent of the secretary of state for justice.

In July 2012, the then justice secretary, Ken Clarke QC, denied the appellant unescorted leave in the community to assess his suitability for discharge.

In April 2013, the appellant applied for discharge to the first-tier tribunal, which notified the secretary of state, Chris Grayling, that conditional discharge would be suitable for the appellant rather than remaining in hospital. The application was subsequently referred the case to the Parole Board.

After the appellant applied for judicial review of a second denial in October 2013, the High Court ordered they be anonymised in proceedings and granted permission to bring the claim in December 2013.

Mr Justice Cranston rejected the claim, however, and refused an application for the anonymity order to remain in force. After an appeal against the refusal of anonymity was rejected by the Court of Appeal, the appellant brought a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

In October 2015, the appellant was released from hospital after the Parole Board approved the appellant's conditional release on life licence.

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Procedures Courts & Judiciary