Police blogger may not be anonymous/Englische Entscheidung zur Anonymität eines bloggenden Polizisten

High Court decision on the right to anonymity of a blogging police officer (relating to an application for an interim injunction). The blog – Nightjack – has been deleted by the authors.

The case is about whether a blogger (policeman or journalist) has the right to preserve his or her anonymity if someone finds out the blogger’s identity. It was Mr Justice Eady who made the decision in favour of privacy on Max Mosley.

What seems wrong to me is not so much the decision as the conduct of Patrick Foster, the journalist who outed the blogger. Charon QC links to two rather negative entries on him, which suggest he specializes in unmasking identities.

Neutral Citation Number: [2009] EWHC 1358 (QB)
Case No: HQ09X02293


Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
16 June 2009

B e f o r e :


– and –



Hugh Tomlinson QC (instructed by Olswang) for the Claimant
Antony White QC and Jonathan Barnes (instructed by Times Newspapers Ltd) for the Defendant
Hearing date: 4 June 2009

Mr Tomlinson submitted that the thousands of regular bloggers who communicate nowadays via the Internet, under a cloak of anonymity, would be horrified to think that the law would do nothing to protect their anonymity if someone carried out the necessary detective work and sought to unmask them. That may be true. I suspect that some would be very concerned and others less so. Be that as it may, Mr Tomlinson needs to demonstrate that there would be a legally enforceable right to maintain anonymity, in the absence of a genuine breach of confidence, by suppressing the fruits of detective work such as that carried out by Mr Foster.

It’s a problem for translation blogs too, of course. I don’t intend to attempt to unmask the Masked Translator – not that that blog goes out of its way to anonymously chastise real translation companies – but most translation blogs are cheery and positive, for good reason: potential clients might prefer that – and it’s refreshing to read something different. Then again, it would be unprofessional to publish traceable information about one’s translation work, except where and when that work is published.

The police blogger has been given a warning and will not be further punished:

A spokeswoman for Lancashire Constabulary said that Det Con Horton, who is understood to be an officer with the force’s Eastern and Pennine divisions, had been spoken to and received a written warning but would not be disciplined further “unless anything else was to come out”.

She added: “We have conducted a full internal investigation and the officer accepts that parts of his public commentary have fallen short of the standards of professional behaviour we expect of our police officers.”

Meanwhile, The Independent reports on the unmasking of a pro-life blogger whose blog about being pregnant with a terminally ill baby was invented.

LATER NOTE: See Head of Legal on NightJack: the Times should be ashamed

Article by the legal editor of The Times, Frances Gibb – with photo of the blogger, now permitted.

Article by Patrick Foster himself with details of blog entries that could be traced to real cases.

Blog entry from Pupillage and How to Get it.

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