Times wins right to identify millionaire named in child-sex trial
PETER NICHOLLS FOR THE TIMES
The identity of a multi-millionaire property developer who was arrested during a police inquiry into a brutal child-sex ring can be revealed today after The Times won a four-year battle to lift his court-imposed anonymity (Andrew Norfolk writes).
Tariq Khuja spent 16 months on bail during an investigation that led to a trial at the Old Bailey, at which seven men from Oxford were convicted of multiple offences against girls aged from 12 to 15. Five were jailed for life.
The Supreme Court’s decision to allow The Times to identify the businessman, 40, who was not a defendant at the trial but was named in evidence, marks a significant victory for the freedom of the press to report criminal trials.
Until today, gagging orders blocked the newspaper from revealing that Khuja, who owned hundreds of properties in Oxford, was arrested in March 2012 on suspicion of rape, people trafficking, causing child prostitution and related conspiracy offences. Khuja was not charged with any offence and strongly denied any involvement in the organised abuse.
Press reports that might have led to his identification were banned at the start of the trial in 2013 to ensure he would receive a fair trial should he later face criminal charges.
When Khuja was released from bail without charge, two months after the trial ended, Judge Peter Rook announced his intention to lift the reporting ban. Khuja’s lawyers immediately launched a civil action, seeking a privacy injunction against The Times and the Oxford Mail that would have extended his anonymity indefinitely.
After his application was rejected at the High Court in 2013 and at the Court of Appeal in 2014, he was granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
For The Times and the Oxford Mail, Gavin Millar, QC, of Matrix Chambers in Gray’s Inn, argued that granting Khuja anonymity “would chill court reporting dramatically”.
The court dismissed Khuja’s appeal in a 5-2 majority judgment yesterday. It ruled there was “no reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to proceedings heard in open court”.