Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Super injunction absurdity

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After my Blog last Saturday, the cat was finally out of the bag yesterday when John Hemming MP mentioned in parliament the rich footballer as Ryan Giggs who had taken out a super injunction affecting Imogen Thomas about allegations that he had an affair with her. To date Giggs has apparently not denied it.
John Hemmings MP
At one point, there was the absurd situation with the Sunday Herald placing a huge photograph of Giggs wearing a Manchester United shirt, on their front page with a tiny blacked out strip across his eyes saying 'censored'. The Herald claimed they were unaffected by the super injunction in Scotland.
Cameron also finally began to wake up to the mess and ordered a committee to convene to look at potential solutions to the current debacle of judges making up censorship laws as they go along and Twitterers blatantly ignoring them.
Was it opportunistic of Hemming to mention Giggs and breach a court order knowing he was safe from prosecution under parliamentary privilege? Yes, of course, but frankly the surreal situation of thousands of people being criminalised by gossiping that Giggs may have taken out a super injunction was fast becoming untenable. Would the courts try to force Twitter to hand over user names and identify those who may have breached the order? 70,000 people could have ended up in court. It simply was not going to happen. The courts have better things to do with their time.
Sunday Herald front page
As I mentioned in my Blog on Saturday 21st May, there are rare circumstances when I think a private individual should have the right to take out a super injunction but those circumstances should be exceptional and not just for the super rich to protect them from gossip. My Blog hit the front page of searches over the weekend for people searching to find out who was the footballer at the centre of the controversy.
I sincerely hope Cameron's new committee will rapidly come up with a set of proposals so that parliament can vote on them in the Autumn and gain Royal Assent by the end of the year. This issue is not going to go away sometime soon. There could still be various criminal cases involving Imogen Thomas, Piers Morgan, Dom Joly, Boy George, Toby Young and many others accused of allegedly leaking the information on Twitter and possibly others (your truly may be?).

Banning the book simply pushed up sales 
The situation reminded me of the 'Spycatcher' affair. The book was banned in the UK and in the days before the Internet it was a lot harder to find a copy of it overseas.
Nevertheless, I tracked down a copy to a book store in the US and purchased it. After reading it, I did wonder what the fuss was all about. Likewise, I am sure that Ryan Giggs will wonder whether the hyper-speculation over many weeks and the final outing has propelled his private life ironically into the spotlight far more than if he had taken the hit many months ago and issued a short statement about the alleged affair.

Imogen Thomas
Imogen Thomas
It is interesting to draw an analogy between phone hacking and super injunctions. In 2006, the police refused to fully investigate obvious, serious breaches of privacy affecting hundreds of people when their phones were hacked on an 'industrial scale' and then covered up by Executives and senior managers in the News of the World and other newspapers.
Now the CPS and police are being ordered by the courts to rapidly bring cases to try and criminalise anyone who even passes a view on an injunction (and not even on the substance of the allegation) which are currently designed to hush up indiscretions of the rich and the famous. Sorry but clearly the law is an ass. Don't get me started on gung ho judges wanting to shut up democratically elected MPs....

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