Open Justice victory for media organisations

Mr Justice Keehan has handed down a full, public judgment explaining why he refused an application by a local authority to make a Reporting Restriction Order (RRO) preventing the media from reporting details of a murder trial.  Surrey County Council had obtained a temporary RRO which prevented any publication of the names of a defendant in a criminal trial, his parents or his siblings. 


The criminal trial concerned the killing of Neil Tulley by his stepsons, in a brutal attack which left him “almost beheaded.” 


Keehan J highlighted the “particularly strong and compelling arguments” against any restrictions being placed on the reporting of criminal trials, in particular:


i)    The importance of open justice in relation to serious criminal behaviour;
ii)   The entitlement of the public to know who is responsible for such behaviour; and
iii)  The significantly reduced impact of a story without a face and name. 


His judgment explains the applicable principles in RRO cases.  He states that RROs, even when short-term and focused, are draconian Orders which can only be made in exceptional circumstances, when absolutely necessary, and when there is a strong evidence base justifying the application.  In this case, the application was not justified.  The evidence did not show that an RRO is necessary or proportionate.  The facts of the case are “unusual and sensational” but not “exceptional,” and he held that they are "far from sufficient to outweigh the plain and substantial interference with the right of [media organisations]" to indentify the defendant and the parents and to report the criminal proceedings.


Keehan J lifted the temporary RRO and refused the application by the local authority for a longer-term RRO. 


Caoilfhionn Gallagher acted for the five successful media organisations in the case - Associated Newspapers, the BBC, Times Newspapers Ltd, the Press Association and Trinity Mirror plc.


The case is known as Surrey County Council v. ME and Others [2014] EWHC 489 (Fam) and it is available here 


Background on the case is available at:

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