Rebuff for firm seeking cloak of anonymity

A firm of solicitors is fighting to remain anonymous while it seeks a judicial review of an LAB decision, reports Roger Pearson.

An unnamed firm of solicitors is fighting to retain anonymity in a pending court battle.

The firm, identified only as "T", has already been engaged in one High Court skirmish in which Mr Justice Kay ruled it is not entitled to anonymity.

As a prelude to the action, in which the practice is seeking judicial review of the Legal Aid Board's denial of a franchise for legal aid work because of alleged dishonesty, the firm looks likely to take its fight for anonymity to the Court of Appeal.

Edmund Lawson QC, for the firm, argued that naming it would cause the practice great damage and that this would be unfair if it was successful in its challenge to the refusal of the legal aid franchise.

However, Presiley Baxendale QC, for the LAB, told Mr Justice Kay she found it inexplicable why solicitors and barristers should expect anonymity while others who could also suffer damage should be named.

Mr Justice Kay refused the anonymity applications. He said his attention had been drawn to Supreme Court rules allowing solicitors to appeal against Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal rulings, but said: "It seems inherently wrong if there is a difference in practice between solicitors and barristers and other professional people.

"The rule is that there is openness about litigation. That is set aside in specific instances where to permit publicity may stifle justice."

He said that to allow T anonymity would be to extend the court's practice, which could in turn "open a floodgate" of those requiring anonymity in disciplinary proceedings against other professional people such as doctors.

But he gave permission for an appeal, saying it would assist others to have the principles of the case reviewed by the Appeal Court.