Times Newspapers Ltd v McNamara
(Chancery Division, Chief Registrar Baister, 13 August 2013)
M, an Irish property developer and hotelier, presented his own bankruptcy petition on 2 November 2012, supported by a detailed statement of affairs and witness statement demonstrating his Centre of Main Interests (COMI) in England & Wales, and a bankruptcy order was made that day. On 28 November 2012, TNL, with an established record of investigative reporting in Ireland on the financial crisis and issues related to bankruptcy tourism, issued an application under r 7.31A(6) of the Insolvency Rules 1986 seeking inspection of the court file. Chief Registrar Baister granted the application. Whilst this was a novel application, for which there was no precedent, it required a detailed analysis of the principles as regards inspection of the bankruptcy file and open justice generally. There was a strong presumption in favour of access to documents read by the court, but the presumption could be departed from where there were countervailing reasons. There was a legitimate public interest in M's financial affairs and his bankruptcy. This was not a fishing expedition on the basis of a prurient interest and M's bankruptcy, whilst protecting him from creditor enforcement, gave no further protection. Subject to safeguards protecting private or confidential matters, TNL was entitled to the relief sought.
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