Anonymisation in Litigation

In Frewer vs Google UK Limited & Others the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) had to look at the extent to which a Tribunal could order redaction and anonymisation of information in a Tribunal bundle.  

In these days of the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018, it is sometimes surprising to our clients that, in litigation and in Tribunal bundles, there is often extensive identification of individuals and client data.

Of course, sometimes sensitive data should be redacted from bundles, but the concept of open justice in litigation means that heavy redaction of all personal information is generally avoided and indeed it can be difficult for a Tribunal to understand the matters before it if details are overly redacted.  

In the case of Frewer the Respondent wanted its clients’ names to be made anonymous both in the bundle and in witness statements and for commercially sensitive information not relevant to be taken out.  The original Tribunal agreed with the Respondent’s request, but on appeal the EAT held that the Tribunal’s orders could not continue.

The EAT said that the Tribunal had failed to properly consider the principle of open justice and the need for the public to be able to see litigation and scrutinise decisions.  It held that the Tribunal had not considered the importance of naming people involved in legal proceedings.  The EAT decided that the original Tribunal had to reconsider the issue and sent it back to them.

Clearly, there can be a case for redaction of certain information in Tribunal bundles, but the case reminds us that Court hearings are generally part of an open process and the information is published in full, unless there is a very good reason not to do so.