The right to anonymity - personal injury claims for children and protected adults
In a personal injury claim for a child or protected adult (a person who lacks capacity to conduct the proceedings themselves) a litigation friend will be required to bring the claim on their behalf. No settlement will be valid without the approval of the Court at an approval hearing (CPR 21.10).
Until the Court of Appeal’s decision in JX MX v Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust (2013) EWHC 3956, the default position was that such claimants who sought anonymity had to formally apply to the Court, setting out good reasons.
Personal injury claims for children and protected adults can often involve high value awards to vulnerable individuals. Yet they are heard in open Court, where the press and members of the public have a right to attend. The publication of their personal details exposes these vulnerable claimants and their families to the risk of financial exploitation.
On 17 February 2015 the Court of Appeal reversed this position. They ruled that children and protected adults in personal injury claims should not be publicly-named, unless the Court is satisfied that anonymity is either unnecessary or inappropriate. The Claimant in that case had suffered severe personal injuries at birth. Settlement was agreed in a substantial sum and an application was made to approve the settlement. An order was also sought for the Claimant’s anonymity, preventing the publication of the name of the Claimant and her parents, but at the infant approval hearing, the Judge refused to make such an order.
On appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the Judge had been wrong not to make an order preventing the publication of the name of the claimant and her parents.
It was considered that “in the pursuit of open justice the court should be more willing to recognise a need to protect the interests of claimants who are children and protected parties, including their right and that of their families to respect for their privacy”.
The Court of Appeal took the view that whilst it may be of public interest that a Defendant has had to pay out substantial compensation to a claimant, it was not in the public interest to disclose the identity or address of such a personal injury claimant or his/her parents.
This welcome decision means that children and protected adults no longer need to apply formally for anonymity, which is now routinely granted, unless the Court considers it is unnecessary or inappropriate. This provides reassurance to children and protected adults that they will be able to pursue their personal injury claim without fear of their personal details becoming public knowledge.
Lyn Gibbons is a Senior Litigation Executive and an Associate of Cilex, specialising in personal injury claims. If you would like to ask Lyn a question about a personal injury claim she can be contacted on 01622 680422 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.