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Reporter wins High Court fight to name lawyer protected for nine years

Charlie Moloney 2A court reporter has won a High Court fight to identify a lawyer who has been protected through “alphabet soup” for nine years.

Freelance Charlie Moloney has successfully challenged reporting restrictions protecting the solicitor, who was granted anonymity in 2014 after suing the Ministry of Justice.

The lawyer, who is currently referred to only as ‘AB/X’, won the case and was awarded damages, but his conduct during later costs hearings was alleged by the MoJ to in breach of Solicitors Regulation Authority rules.

At a hearing in 2021, it was ruled he was “shouting and swearing” at counsel for the MoJ and the solicitor from the Government Legal Department before twice walking out and coming back in – causing the hearing to be abandoned.

Charlie attended the latest hearing surrounding the case earlier this month for Law Society Gazette, where he challenged the anonymity order on the grounds that there is a clear public interest in people “being aware of any misconduct by such a person”.

Mrs Justice May DBE, in a judgment on Wednesday, said: “[Charlie] pointed out that there appeared to have been no press present on the occasion when the order was made, pointing out that its continuation since then has, through ‘alphabet soup’, effectively hidden from view matters about which, had the press known of them, they would certainly have wished to have reported earlier.

“Mr Moloney suggested that, had the press made an application before now, then it would have been allowed and anonymity would have been lifted long ago.”

The judge invited counsel for the MoJ and AB/X to draw up an order lifting anonymity, but there is a stay on identifying AB/X in case he seeks permission to appeal.

At the time the order was given, Mr Justice Baker had said there was “evidence of the potential harm that could be caused to the claimant’s family” by the revelation of “material” referred to in the case.

He said: “It is necessary to protect their Article 8 rights by affording them a suitable level privacy [sic] in this case.”

Charlie, pictured, who is also a media law tutor at News Associates, told HTFP: “For nine years, this case has taken up valuable court and judicial time, yet there has been very little reporting on the matter as a consequence of the reporting restriction.

“This is yet another example of the far-reaching effect of privacy laws, which have been such a lightning rod of controversy since this month’s BBC presenter story.

“Judges have consistently ruled that the courtroom doors are the final frontier against such restrictions. When someone comes to court, they are subject to the usual rules of open justice.”