Millionaire magistrate landlord loses five-year battle to keep secret his arrest over child sex abuse allegation
- Tariq Khuja has lost his legal battle to keep his identity a secret following arrest
- Suspected of involvement in child sex ring and was arrested but faced no charge
- Millionaire landlord and former magistrate spent five years trying to prevent his name being linked to the police probe into paedophiles operating in Oxford
- Trial ended with seven men being jailed for min of 95 years in 2013, for grooming, drugging, raping, selling young girls for sex between 2004 and 2011
A millionaire landlord suspected of child sex abuse who was arrested but never charged can finally be named after losing a five-year legal battle to keep his identity a secret.
The High Court and Court of Appeal both rejected former magistrate Tariq Khuja’s bid to use privacy laws to stop the press and media naming him after his identity was revealed in open court proceedings.
Described as ‘a prominent figure in the Oxford area’, his identity remained secret while he took his fight to the Supreme Court, the highest court in Britain.
The High Court and Court of Appeal both rejected former magistrate Tariq Khuja’s bid to use privacy laws to stop the press and media naming him after his identity was revealed in open court proceedings. He is pictured outside his property letting agency in 2013
By a 5-2 majority, the Supreme Court justices ruled today that he had no ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ under human rights laws and revoked an anonymity order.
Lawyers for the press and media had argued that if he had won his case, coverage of criminal trials would have been handicapped.
The ruling was a victory for journalists Andrew Norfolk and Ben Wilkinson, who challenged Mr Khuja’s right to anonymity after he was named in the sex grooming trial.
Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger agreed with Lady Hale, Lord Clarke, Lord Sumption and Lord Reed that Mr Khuja had no right to prevent publication of matters, including his identity, being discussed at a public trial.
Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson disagreed.
Gavin Millar QC, appearing for the media, had told the court it was being asked to create an exception to the open justice principle, which allows the reporting of evidence heard in open court, by granting anonymity to the man because to identify him as a suspect in a child sex case would potentially subject him to public vilification.
Mr Khuja was described as ‘a prominent figure in the Oxford area’ and his identity remained secret while he took his fight to the Supreme Court, the highest court in Britain
The case involved a clash between the rights of the press and public, under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to freedom of expression and the rights of Mr Khuja and his family under Article 8 to private and family life.
Lord Sumption said in the lead judgment that for some years media organisations had investigated allegations that the police and child protection authorities had failed adequately ‘to confront a pattern of crime involving the sexual exploitation of vulnerable young teenage girls by older men’.
It had become a subject of serious public concern and given rise to a number of government-ordered national inquiries.
It had also led to a review of standards of protection in children’s homes, and substantial changes in the procedures of the police and prosecuting authorities for handling such cases.
The case of Mr Khuja arose from the trial of nine men ‘on exceptionally serious charges’ involving organised child sex grooming and child prostitution in the Oxford area over a period of eight years.
The men were arrested in March 2012 by Thames Valley Police after a long-running investigation known as Operation Bullfinch and tried before Judge Rook QC at the Old Bailey between January 7 and May 14 2013.
Seven were convicted of rape and conspiracy to rape children, trafficking and child prostitution.
Lord Sumption said evidence was given at the trial of the exploitation of six girls aged 11-15 and it attracted considerable publicity in the national and local press and in the broadcast media.
‘Public interest in it was accentuated and prolonged by the perception that the victims of the men convicted had not originally been taken seriously by the police or Oxfordshire social services, and had not received the protection to which they were entitled.’
Mr Khuja was a prominent figure in the Oxford area, who was arrested at about the same time as the nine and was released on bail on terms including that he surrender his passport, said the judge.
He was arrested because one of the six girls told the police she had been abused by a man with the same, very common, first name.
But she failed to pick Mr Khuja out at an identity parade and he was released without charge but told that the case would be kept under review.
Lord Sumption said: ‘That remains the position. Police investigations are continuing, but PNM has never been charged with any offence, and there is no present reason to believe that he ever will be.’
The judge ruled: ‘PNM’s application is to prohibit the reporting, however fair or accurate, of certain matters which were discussed at a public trial.
‘These are not matters in respect of which PNM can have had any reasonable expectation of privacy.’
The judge said the impact on PNM’s family life ‘of what was said about him at the trial is no different in kind from the impact of many disagreeable statements which may be made about individuals at a high profile criminal trial.’
That impact was ‘part of the price to be paid for open justice and the freedom of the press to report fairly and accurately on judicial proceedings held in public’.
He said: ‘The sexual abuse of children, especially on an organised basis, is a subject of great public concern.
‘The processes by which such cases are investigated and brought to trial are matters of legitimate public interest.
‘The criticisms made of the police and social services inevitably reinforce the public interest in this particular case.
‘PNM’s identity is not a peripheral or irrelevant feature of this particular story.’
In their dissenting judgment, Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson said they took the view that ‘the scales have descended heavily in favour of PNM’s rights under Article 8’.