Restrictive Reporting Order Granted in Sexual Harassment Case

sexual-harrasment

In tribunal proceedings, a Restricted Reporting Order (“RRO”) prohibits specific facts or matter from being published or made available to the public. The decision on whether or not to grant a RRO will fall on the specific circumstances and the competing interests of the individuals concerned.

When a RRO request is made in reliance on the right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, this right needs to be balanced against the right to freedom of expression under Article 10. In the case of EF and another v AB (Debarred) and others UKEAT/0525/13, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”), the right to privacy prevailed; the EAT held that the respondent and a third party had a right to privacy in respect of the sexual allegations made about their private lives and there was no public interest in identifying either of them.

This case concerned numerous allegations of sexual harassment being raised by AB against a number of respondents, one of whom was the CEO (EF) of a group of companies that had acquired AB’s business. The allegations included the assertion that EF had encouraged AB to attend sex parties and that EF and his wife, NP, had sexually abused him for almost 13 years.

AB’s allegations appeared to have been prompted by an anonymous letter received by EF making a series of allegations of dishonesty against AB. When the letter was shown to AB, he proposed entering into a non-compete agreement for three years in exchange for £10 million to be paid on his termination with £100,000 paid to his daughters who were employed by the business. This was out rightly rejected.

On the commencement of an investigation into the allegations of dishonesty, AB notified EF that he intended to notify shareholders and go public with five allegations that EF had sexually abused him. AB resigned and circulated an email attaching a sexual photograph of EF’s wife, NP, and told the company of his intention to take matters “to the next level via all different media available”. He did just that.

The EAT found that the respondent, EF and third party, NP had a right to privacy in respect of the sexual allegations made about their private lives and that there was no public interest in identifying either of them. The EAT also concluded that AB had brought the proceedings as an act of revenge in an attempt to secure a large amount of money by blackmail. Finally, it considered that any failure to grant the RRO would expose NP’s child (ten at the time of the hearing) to having his mother identified as a participant in sexual activity and in a pornographic photograph. A permanent RRO was granted for EF and NP.

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