Recently I was unceremoniously ordered out of a court hearing in a case the Gazette has been covering and given little indication of when, if at all, I would be allowed to return.
As of now, neither party in the Rolls Building litigation can be named, along with the business in question, or any other identifying details.
What we can tell you is this: the case involves two overseas litigants and huge sums of money. Of course, what we cannot tell you is more interesting.
Most of these details have previously been in the public domain but the latest privacy order means we cannot now refer back to the dispute or anything connected with it. The reason for the order is that confidential information regarding finances and interests is likely to be disclosed.
Confidentiality orders are no novelty to reporters – it is accepted that certain aspects of disputes are confidential and reporters frequently either agree to omit them from reports or leave the room when they are being discussed. In the family court and cases involving juveniles, anonymity is of course the norm. Even in commercial litigation, there may be exceptional reasons for barring the reporting of certain sensitive facts. We can understand why at least one of the parties in the Rolls Building case desires this.
But we should never forget an underlying principle of common law, memorably spelled out by Lord Atkinson in Scott v Scott a century ago. 'The hearing of a case in public may be, and often is, no doubt, painful, humiliating, or deterrent both to parties and witnesses... but all this is tolerated and endured, because it is felt that in public trial is to be found, on the whole, the best security for the pure, impartial and efficient administration of justice, the best means of winning for it public confidence and respect.'
When overseas litigants enjoy the benefits of pure, impartial and efficient administration of justice, they should accept the responsibilities, too.