After Parliamentary privilege upset Fred Goodwin’s retirement party back in March, the debate over super injunctions has gathered pace. The role of Free Speech VS family privacy; freedom of the press; Parliament VS Judiciary over law making have continued to ramp up in intensity.
I have to admit to being a little uneasy over the whole thing. I am in, shall we say two minds over the issue.
What is for certain however, is the law as it stands is ridiculous and is being made an ass of. Which in one respect makes me belly laugh, but on the other hand is rather disconcerting.
John Hemmings has just been told off in Parliament for using his Parliamentary privilege to name Ryan Giggs, making even the BBC to discuss if they can name him in their reports which they have decided so far not to do since the Sunday Herald published his picture on the front page yesterday.
The immediate problem is how the law is completely useless because anyone who really wants to know, can find out about the juicier of the super injunctions. The internet and social media have usurped the courts and the law in this regard.
The fundamentals however, have not changed. It is still up to the courts to decide the balance between freedom of speech and privacy as laid down in the human rights act. If they cannot use a super injunction, what are they to do?
Some say that anyone in the public eye should just deal with it. Some celebrities take the view that you take the rough with the smooth. However, when I hear the likes of Kelvin Mackenzie going through the motions basically arguing the great freedom of the press line, when actually we are talking about, on the whole, tabloids making money out of peoples private lives – who shagged who – and in many cases simply lies to sell newspapers, is it really about freedom of the press?
There is a certain section of the press who will stop at nothing to get a story regardless of who it hurts or the lies it tells. This part of the press gives everyone else a bad name and encourages those in the public eye to seek these injunctions. In some ways I don’t blame them.
Then this leads to another problem. Only the rich can do this, which means, as with Imogen Thomas, that can take the flak, while the rich celebrity is protected. This leads to other aspects of the law, where you need masses amount of money to sue the newspapers. There is redress and privacy for the rich and not for ordinary mortals.
Then there is the problem outlined by many Parliamentarians stating that the courts should not be bringing in a privacy law. Yet this is the fault of the very same Parliamentarians who have refused to face up to this problem by passing a human rights act and leaving it to the courts to interpret the law. In effect, Parliament has passed legislation and considered the implications, they just didn’t consider it very well! Who’d of thunk it.
Then there are those like Ian Hislop who think that judges being a part of the establishment will more than likely impose an injunction and are not the best to adjudicate on the problem. If the Judges are not the ones who should adjudicate then who should? If we cannot trust judges should we trust Parliament to bring in a privacy law?
Could you imagine anything worse than politicians deciding what should remain private, especially after what they would see as being victimised by the press over the expenses scandal.
The whole thing is a mess, and the law is about 30 years behind the times.
The press often cite the Trafigura incident and the super injunction obtained. A disgrace that put into jeopardy the public interest. But does that justify a free for all on the private lives of anyone who ends up in a newspaper?
I don’t think anyone has an answer, maybe a free for all is all we can have, but this will rumble on as the courts seem determined to at least try to maintain their authority on this matter. The sad truth however, is that the rest of us living in the 21st Century have realised that they don’t really have any.