The Tribunal heard an application for a hearing to be held in private. The Appellant was described as a ’self-employed media entertainer and performer,’ and was referred to as a ‘celebrity.’ The underlying issue was a direct tax question of the deductibility of certain legal and professional expenses, and a smaller sum claimed as AIA.
The questions for the Tribunal were crystallized into three matters:
The publicity issue – whether the celebrity status of the appellant would attract publicity that would interfere with the administration of justice to the extent that justice cannot be done unless the hearing is in private;
The confidentiality issue – whether the appellant is at risk of breaching the confidential agreement in settlement of the libel action unless the hearing is in private;
The right to respect for private and family life – whether the Convention rights of the appellant, his children, and his ex-wife will be infringed unless the hearing is in private.
The Tribunal Rules have a default position that hearings are public. A private hearing is considered an exception to the general principle of open justice (Rule 32).
The decision also considered the Civil Procedure Rules, Human Rights Act 1998, and the Contempt of Court Act 1981. Strangely (para 68), Mr D’s representation made no reference to any case law or statute. This is both surprising and disappointing. I take the view that this severely weakened Mr D’s argument. A failure to argue statute or case law in support of an argument is negligent.
In finding against Mr D, the Tribunal commented briefly on the potential interest of the press in the appeal, and its wider circumstances. Whilst noting this interest, the Tribunal was reluctant to interfere in the media’s right to report proceedings (para 164). The role of the media as a conduit of information may itself be of public interest.