Facing Criminal Investigations? Your Rights to AnonymityOctober 12, 2023
Whether you hold a high-profile position in a multinational corporation or are a local community member, the repercussions of reputational harm can be severe when facing a criminal investigation. Here at Cunninghams Solicitors, we have highly trained serious fraud and criminal solicitors, and our paramount concern is privacy when advocating for our clients, particularly those who have been unjustly accused of serious crimes such as fraud, bribery, corruption, or money laundering.
The disclosure of a suspect’s identity during the investigative phase, before any criminal charges are filed, has long been a subject of legal battles between the media and legal practitioners. Although these disputes may experience temporary pauses, they persist over time.
On February 16, 2022, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark ruling in the case of Bloomberg v ZXC. This judgement affirmed that individuals under investigation should have a reasonable expectation of privacy prior to being charged. This expectation is assessed through a two-stage test.
The first stage involves an objective evaluation to determine whether the person being investigated possesses a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the specific inquiry. Once this is established, the second stage requires a balancing act between the individual’s expectation of privacy and the publisher’s right to freedom of expression, in accordance with Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
In the case mentioned above, the judge concluded that an individual involved in a police investigation has a reasonable expectation of privacy until the point at which charges are brought. Regarding the second stage, the judge considered whether there was a significant public interest in revealing information about the investigation. The public interest aspect must outweigh the individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, taking into account the chosen starting point and the necessity of maintaining the investigation’s confidentiality.
Article 8 of the ECHR comes with the protection of one’s reputation, which is safeguarded by the tort of defamation and the tort of misuse of private information, as these can cause harm to the individuals concerned. Exercising these rights entails corresponding duties, responsibilities, and limitations, which are crucial in a democratic society.
Consequently, the media bears a burden to exercise greater caution when reporting on the details of individuals suspected of criminal activities or those arrested. This ruling by the Supreme Court provides some reassurance to private individuals subject to a criminal investigation, as the court acknowledges the potential damage to their reputation caused by media coverage.
While the judgement does not curtail press freedom, it does represent a positive step forward for our clients and their right to privacy.
Facing any type of criminal investigation can be a frightening experience for organisations and individuals. In such circumstances, taking immediate action and seeking legal professionals’ expertise from a serious fraud solicitor is crucial. By engaging with Cunningham’s serious fraud solicitors, you can access confidential and practical assistance from experienced solicitors based in Manchester and London, with over 20 years of experience defending clients’ serious fraud charges. Our team of experienced criminal solicitors have the expertise to help you build a strong case and to support you through each stage.
Cunninghams initial advice is always free of charge and can be contacted at 0800 051 2542 or enquire online.