Celebrity loses case to remain anonymous in court

A celebrity taxpayer has lost a first tier tribunal (FTT) to have a hearing held in private, despite HMRC not opposing the application, as the judge deemed it unnecessary due to it lacking any circumstances which required anonymity

The appellant is a celebrity who is a self-employed media entertainer and performer but remains anonymous until the appeal process has ended (D [2017] TC 05575).

The case is in regards to the taxpayer’s tax return for 2010-11, concerning legal and professional expenses of £90,000 incurred in connection with defamation proceedings brought against the taxpayer’s ex-wife over comments made in the media. It also concerned a £15,000 Annual Investment Allowance claimed for the improvement costs of security gates at the taxpayer’s home.

The appellant applied for the case to be heard in private, which HMRC agreed to.

The FTT summarised the relevant issues to be considered as:

  • The publicity issue – whether the celebrity status would have attracted publicity that would have interfered with the court case to the extent that justice could not have been done unless the hearing was in private.
  • The confidentiality issue – whether the appellant was at risk of breaching the confidential agreement in settlement of the libel action against his ex-wife
  • The right to respect for private and family life – whether the Convention rights under ECHR, art. 8, of the appellant, his children, and his ex-wife would be infringed.

The application for the hearing to be in private was refused on the grounds that anonymity was not necessary.

The case states: ‘Anonymity can only be granted where it is strictly necessary. There are no exceptional or compelling circumstances to justify anonymity, given that the unqualified rights under Articles 2 or 3 are not engaged, and the potential interference with the appellant’s right to respect for his private and family life, and his ex-wife’s right to privacy would seem to be limited in scope.’

Meg Wilson, CCH tax writer said: ‘This case serves as a reminder that derogations from the fundamental principle of open justice can only be justified in exceptional circumstances when they are strictly necessary to secure the proper administration of justice.

‘In this case even though HMRC did not oppose the application for the hearing to be held in private the FTT found that the facts of the case fell very far short of the stringent requirements needed to have met the test of necessity for any derogation from a public hearing.’

On 24 March 2017 the celebrity was revealed to be Peter Andre and the case report was updated with a statement saying 'this decision was first released with the appellant anonymised as "Mr D", and has been republished with the anonymisation removed.'

D [2017] TC 05575 is available here. 

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