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News reports and open Justice

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Issue

The principle of open justice means that proceedings in the Employment Tribunal are open to the public and may be reported in the press. In Guardian News and Media Ltd v Rozanov and anor the issue was whether in complying with the principle of open justice it was appropriate for an Employment Tribunal to provide various documents that had been requested by a journalist following the completion of the case and the claims.

Facts

Mr Rozanov’s claims that he had been subject to detriment and dismissed because he had made protected disclosures failed. It was found that he had made disclosures but that had not been the reason for his treatment.  Seven weeks later a newspaper journalist requested a number of documents referred to in the judgment on the grounds that there were matters of legitimate public interest as the evidence suggested repeated and deliberate breaches of UK anti-money laundering regulations.

Decision

It was held on appeal that the journalist’s requests should have been allowed and the documents requested provided. The documents had been expressly requested for ‘journalistic reasons’, including to better understand the matters, to ensure fair and accurate reporting, and to stimulate informed debate. The principle of open justice was strongly engaged in these circumstances. Objections based on the practical difficulty or cost in providing these documents were limited due to the electronic format used.

Key points

The decision highlights the extent to which media reporting may be a further issue to be considered when dealing with claims in the Employment Tribunal. The fact that a claim may be successfully defended will not prevent potential reputational damage being caused by subsequent reports in the press. Whilst arguments may be raised relating to the need for anonymity to protect confidential information where appropriate the employer will have the difficult task of showing that such is necessary.

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