The Supreme Court’s much-anticipated judgment in Khuja (formerly known as PNM) v Times Newspapers Limited [2017] UKSC 49 places great emphasis on the importance of open justice, but equally recognises that suspects in a criminal case are still entitled to protect their privacy prior to being named.

Lord Sumption, giving the lead judgment, held that neither of the Courts below had erred in refusing to provide anonymity to a man named as a sexual offence suspect in open court, despite the fact that he was never charged and is innocent as far as the law is concerned.

Nevertheless, there is no suggestion that this judgment impairs a claimant’s ability to obtain an interim injunction in privacy before his/her identity is publicly known. Lord Sumption specifically stated that there was a “stark” contrast between that scenario and the instant case.

The Supreme Court indicated that the right time for someone connected to proceedings (but not charged) to contest publication of their identity is prior to their name being mentioned in open court, and that in fact in the present case the argument “might have had considerable force” but was left “too late”.

Arrested suspects who are not charged with a crime should therefore consider at an early stage if it will be right to apply for any special protection, such as a pre-emptive injunction. This is relevant in criminal cases where there may be great media interest or where there are related criminal proceedings in which they may be named in open Court.

As dissenting Judges Lords Wilson and Kerr identified, while the law treats suspects as innocent until proven guilty, the court of public opinion does not.

The judgment can be read here. There is a press summary available here.