Associated Newspapers, publishers of MailOnline, have been ordered to pay £83,000 in damages to a man arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences but never charged.

Alaedeen Sicri was arrested at his home in West Sussex after the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in May 2017. Mr Sicri was released without charge some days later, the police having found no evidence of his being involved with the bombing at all. After the arrest, Greater Manchester police issued a press release saying that a 23 year old man had been arrested, without naming or otherwise identifying Mr Sicri. MailOnline however, did identify him. Mr Sicri sued for breach of confidence and misuse of private information. He said that he had been deeply distressed by the coverage of him, he feared for his safety and had received hostile messages on social media.

The court found Mr Sicri had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the fact of his arrest, having not been charged or named by the police. Any public interest in identifying him did not outweigh this reasonable expectation of privacy. Indeed the judge did not think that the identification of Mr Sicri was capable of making any contribution to any public debate about the Manchester bombing or the investigation that followed. The judge accepted that the naming of individuals in press reports can be important in engaging the public in the story but made clear that whether naming is justified will always depend upon the facts of a particular case. In this case, it was not.

This is the third recent case in which a court has found that an individual being investigated by the authorities has a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of that information and found against news organisations who have published the information. Sir Cliff Richard was famously awarded £210,000 in relation to the BBC’s coverage of a police raid on his home. An anonymous businessman referred to as ZXC succeeded in a claim against news organisation Bloomberg in relation to information about an investigation by a UK law enforcement body involving him.

In light of these cases, it will generally not be appropriate to name individuals under investigation until they are charged, unless the particular circumstances justify it and outweigh the individual’s right to privacy.

However, in December 2020, Bloomberg were given permission to appeal the ZXC case to the Supreme Court. The case will be one to watch and zoom-in will report as it progresses.