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The law on press reporting of ancillary relief proceedings is ‘a mess’: Mostyn J

Permission given to appeal to resolve the ‘unhappy divergence of judicial approach’

In Appleton & Gallagher v News Group Newspapers and PA [2015] EWHC 2689 (Fam) Mr Justice Mostyn has granted permission to NGN Ltd to appeal to the Court of Appeal to resolve the "unhappy divergence of judicial approach" to privacy and reporting restrictions in ancillary relief cases.

He said that it was a "serious understatement" .. "to say that the law about the ability of the press to report ancillary relief proceedings which they are allowed to observe is a mess".

Expressing approval of the decision of the Court of Appeal, in Clibbery v Allan (No 2) [2002] EWCA Civ 45 which provided the rationale for the "long-accepted prohibition on publication of private ancillary relief proceedings held in chambers", he noted that ancillary relief proceedings are subject to a "far wider" scope of disclosure than in a civil dispute: "you basically have to disclose everything about your economic life".  But "information compulsorily extracted by one party from the other is subject to an implied undertaking that it will not be used for any purpose other than the proceedings".  A party telling the press what the other party had said in the witness box would be in contempt of court, as would a third party who subsequently published what had been said.

Mostyn J said that following the introduction of FPR 27.11 which now permits the admission of the press, but not the public, Parliament had specifically maintained these proceedings as private: "It is inconceivable that Parliament could have intended to destroy the effect of the implied undertaking when it allowed the press to observe these private proceedings as a watchdog".

For a detailed summary of the judgment, by Gwyn Evans of Tanfield Chambers, and the judgment itself, please click here.

For an article - Privacy in Financial Remedies Proceedings, written by David bedingfield of 4 Paper Buildings - please click here.