In EF and another v AB (Debarred) and others the EAT has provided guidance on the factors which should properly be considered when deciding whether to grant a Restricted Reporting Order (RRO) in proceedings. A RRO can be granted, either on application or by the tribunal itself, where it is necessary, for example to protect an individual’s right to privacy under The European Convention on Human Rights. They prevent any matter which would identify the protected person from being made public and, in certain circumstances, this anonymity can be granted on a permanent basis. When granting RROs, tribunals are required to balance the competing rights of (i) individual privacy and (ii) freedom of expression and also the interests of open justice which requires publication of tribunal decisions and party names.
This case confirms that where more than one individual is claiming a right to privacy (as was the case here), each individual’s rights should be considered separately and not grouped together. Other relevant factors can also be taken into account, and specifically in this case the EAT considered the claimant’s motivation for bringing the claim (found to be blackmail and revenge and therefore a factor which favoured retaining anonymity for the other parties). It also considered the interests of non-parties, including the child of one of the protected individuals, which the tribunal had failed to do. Overall, the EAT found no public interest in revealing the identity of either of EF or his wife, so the right to freedom of expression did not outweigh individual privacy. The EAT then balanced their individual rights to privacy against the interests of open justice and concluded that the permanent RRO should be granted.