Twitterers Revealed

An article in the newspaper about one person’s complaint about the claimed libellous comments by another person, mentioned a Norwich Pharmacal order by which a wronged person can get the details of otherwise anonymous twitterers.

A Norwich Pharmacal order is a court order for the disclosure of documents or information that is available in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is granted against a third party which has been innocently mixed up in wrongdoing, forcing the disclosure of documents or information.

The innocent party in this case would, of course, be Twitter.

A Norwich Pharmacal order was first granted in 1974 by the House of Lords in Norwich Pharmacal Co. v Customs and Excise Commissioners, a case concerning the alleged violation of a patent by unknown importers of the chemical subject to the patent.

Norwich Pharmacal orders are now granted in relation to other torts, including defamation, and breach of contract, as well as alleged criminal offences.

By the Justice and Security Act 2013, Norwich Pharmacal orders cannot be granted by the UK courts where disclosure of the material in question would cause damage to the public interest.

Who makes the case for what is and is not in the public interest? Can a third party, such as a representative of Government that is not a direct party to the action, ask that the identity not be revealed?