When considering an order to restrict public disclosure of legal proceedings, tribunals must give “full weight to the principle of open justice”. In Piepenbrock v The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that it would grant an indefinite order to anonymise the name of a third party as it would not undermine Dr Piepenbrock’s rights in any way.


Basic facts

In November 2012, Dr Piepenbrock (an academic in his mid-40s) alleged that Ms D, a recent graduate of the LSE in her early 20s, had sexually harassed and exposed herself to him. She denied the allegations and brought a grievance against him. He alleged that the way that the LSE handled the grievance resulted in him having a “major autistic meltdown”.

After he was dismissed in 2014, he brought a complaint against the LSE for psychiatric injury in the High Court (weekly LELR 606) which was rejected. He also lodged claims for discrimination and unfair dismissal in the tribunal which the LSE applied to strike out after the loss of his High Court claim.

In 2019, however, Dr Piepenbrock started another High Court action for defamation, in which he named Ms D as a defendant along with the LSE. An anonymity order was made for her benefit in that case, as well as another High Court action in 2021, that he brought against the LSE and 14 others including Ms D.


Tribunal decision

When his tribunal claims eventually came to trial, they were all rejected. Indeed, the tribunal found him to be an unreliable witness who had demonstrated behaviour that was “manipulative and dishonest”. He appealed against that judgment, at which point the LSE made an application to the EAT to prevent Ms D’s identity from being disclosed on an indefinite basis.


EAT decision

Noting Dr Piepenbrock’s “strident” opposition to the application and his determination to appeal any finding that went against him to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, the EAT expressed its concern about the “very strong animus” that Dr Piepenbrock continued to express against Ms D.

However, the EAT was also mindful of its obligation to carry out a balancing exercise between the competing rights in the case. That is, between Ms D’s rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to a private life) and those of Dr Piepenbrock under Article 6 (the right to a fair trial) and Article 10 (the right to freedom of expression).

Acknowledging the “intrinsic value” of open justice, the EAT was not convinced that granting the order for anonymity would have a serious impact on the case. The fairness of the hearing of Dr Piepenbrock’s appeal was not undermined in any real way by referring to her as Ms D and the judgment was perfectly comprehensible without including her name. Conversely, the EAT could not see how Dr Piepenbrock’s Article 6 rights would be damaged in any substantial way.

It was, however, satisfied that unless it made an order for anonymity, there was a substantial risk that Dr Piepenbrock would use the court process, including the EAT judgment and other documents associated with the appeal in a way that was contrary to the interests of justice in order to continue harassing her. It, therefore, granted an order to anonymize Ms D in the EAT judgment; to control public access to documents lodged with the EAT; and to make an order preventing any disclosure of Ms D’s identity indefinitely.



This case shows that a careful balancing exercise will be undertaken when deciding whether to grant an anonymity order when an individual is neither a party to the proceedings nor a witness, but is nevertheless impacted. The tribunal will take into account the relevant facts and circumstances of the parties concerned. The case also highlights that when considering applications such as this, the tribunal is required to act in a way that is compatible with section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which places a duty on public authorities not to act incompatibly with certain rights and freedoms drawn from the European Convention on Human Rights.