08:20, July 19 82 0 theguardian.com

2017-07-19 08:20:03
Oxford child sex abuse suspect loses five-year battle for anonymity

A man suspected of child sex abuse who was arrested but faced no charge can be named after losing a long legal battle to keep his identity secret.

The High Court and Court of Appeal both rejected Tariq Khuja’s bid to use privacy laws to stop the press and media naming him after he was referred to as “PNM” in open court proceedings.

Described as “a prominent figure in the Oxford area”, his identity remained secret while he took his fight to the supreme court.

By a 5-2 majority, the supreme court justices ruled on Wednesday that he had no “reasonable expectation of privacy” under human rights laws and revoked an anonymity order.

Lawyers for the media had argued that if he had won his case, coverage of criminal trials would have been handicapped.

The ruling was a victory for The Times and Newsquest, publishers of the Oxford Mail, and a journalist on each paper, Andrew Norfolk and Ben Wilkinson, who challenged Mr Khuja’s right to anonymity after he was named in a sex grooming trial.

Supreme court president Lord Neuberger agreed with Lady Hale, Lord Clarke, Lord Sumption and Lord Reed that Khuja had no right to prevent publication of matters, including his identity, being discussed at a public trial.

Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson disagreed.

Gavin Millar QC, appearing for the media, had told the court it was being asked to create an exception to the open justice principle, which allows the reporting of evidence heard in open court, by granting anonymity to the man because to identify him as a suspect in a child sex case would potentially subject him to public vilification.

The case involved a clash between the rights of the press and public, under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to freedom of expression and the rights of Khuja and his family under Article 8 to private and family life.

Lord Sumption said in the lead judgment that for some years The Times and other media organisations had investigated allegations that the police and child protection authorities had failed adequately “to confront a pattern of crime involving the sexual exploitation of vulnerable young teenage girls by older men”.

It had become a subject of serious public concern and given rise to a number of government-ordered national inquiries.

It had also led to a review of standards of protection in children’s homes, and substantial changes in the procedures of the police and prosecuting authorities for handling such cases.

The case of Khuja arose from the trial of nine men “on exceptionally serious charges” involving organised child sex grooming and child prostitution in the Oxford area over a period of eight years.

The men were arrested in March 2012 by Thames Valley Police after a long-running investigation known as Operation Bullfinch and tried before Judge Rook QC at the Old Bailey between 7 January 7 and 14 May 2013. Seven were convicted of rape and conspiracy to rape children, trafficking and child prostitution.

Lord Sumption said evidence was given at the trial of the exploitation of six girls aged 11 to 15 and it attracted considerable publicity in the national and local press and in the broadcast media.

“Public interest in it was accentuated and prolonged by the perception that the victims of the men convicted had not originally been taken seriously by the police or Oxfordshire social services, and had not received the protection to which they were entitled.”