High Court awards damages to claimant identified as suspect in Manchester Arena attack


Re: Sicri v Associated Newspapers Ltd (Rev 1) [2020] EWHC 3541 (QB)

The claimant was arrested on 29 May 2017 on suspicion of terrorist offences following the detonation of a suicide bomb during the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on 27 May 2017. Within minutes, the police issued a press release stating that a 23-year-old man had been arrested “in connection with the Manchester Arena attack”. In line with standard practice, the police did not name the claimant. However, the defendant published online an article reporting on the arrest of the claimant which contained sufficient information, including an alternative spelling of his full name, for him to be identified by the world at large.

On 3 June 2017, the claimant was released without charge. The defendant did not report the claimant’s release and the article remained online unamended until February 2018, when it was taken down following receipt of a letter of claim from the claimant’s solicitors.

In December 2018, the claimant brought an action claiming damages for breach of confidence and misuse of private information. His claim included claims for aggravated damages – to compensate for increased hurt to feelings – and for special damages, to compensate for financial loss.

The main issue at trial in the High Court was whether the claimant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the information that he had been arrested in connection with the Manchester terrorist attack. If this was answered in the affirmative, then it fell to be decided whether the rights of the defendant and others to disseminate and receive information on matters of public or general interest outweighed the claimant’s expectation of privacy. Finally, if the claimant succeeded on liability, damages would have to be determined.

HELD: The claimant had a right to expect that the defendant would not publish his identity as the 23-year-old man arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Manchester Arena bombing. By 12:47 on 29 May 2017, the defendant had violated that right; it had no, or no sufficient public interest justification for identifying the claimant. It continued to do so. Later, another publisher did the same or similar. But the claimant’s right to have the defendant respect his privacy was not defeated or significantly weakened by the fact that others failed to do so. He is entitled to compensation. The appropriate sum is £83,000 in general and special damages.

Sara Mansoori, Hugh Tomlinson QC and Antony White QC were involved in this case.