tcrn226lI don’t often comment on recent cases, but this one is interesting. Eady J has decided that anonymous bloggers have no right to be anonymous. The full decision is here.
That is the limit of his decision, although some of the more flamboyant responses would not have you think so. He has not, for example, said that anonymous bloggers must be named. It is simply that you have no reasonable expectation of anonymity and, if someone finds you out, they can tell the world who you are.
I can see the logic of the decision. Blogging should not be a shield behind which people shelter to make unpleasant allegations for which they never have to answer. The blogger’s main argument was that some important things will simply not be said unless anonymity is guaranteed. Eady J’s answer was that the point is academic because he had first to decide (Art 8.) whether there was a reasonable expectation of anonymity, to which question the answer was ‘no’. In matters such as information about a crime, that answer would clearly be in the affirmative. Nattering to the world at large, in other words, gives rise to no expectation that you will be allowed to do it without being outed.
The public interest issue was dealt with on the confined basis that the blogger in question was a police officer, subject to specific regulations in his capacity as a public servant. It’s difficult to argue with that conclusion – which poses the interesting question as to whether BVC students or pupils are entitled to public interest type protection. Pupils, of course, also have to abide a Code of Conduct.
I hope they are. One of the most distressing entries I ever read on a blog was that the author (a pupil) had stopped blogging because a friend in another Chambers had been told that a blog was a surefire way of not getting a tenancy. Are we really so concerned about our image that an anonymous blog by a pupil could be seen as a threat? Plainly, if the author in question was telling all and sundry about his Pupil Supervisor’s cases and the great plan they had to chew up the key witness on the other side that would be a different matter: but the blog in question was not doing anything like that and I don’t recall seeing one which did.
In a profession dedicated to representing anyone and everyone, denying a blogger anonymity to comment on the legal world as viewed from the bottom of the pyramid seems to me to be a retrograde step. I am not in a position to make a legal difference, but this blog will continue to respect the anonymity of those of you I know, and to allow anonymous comments. People may factor in anonymity when they assess the value to be given to a contribution, but sometimes it is helpful to hear every view – even the scurrilous, the aggravating and the just plain bonkers.