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Privacy injunction statistics published by Ministry of Justice as part of new pilot scheme

March 19th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Legal

On Thursday last week the Ministry of Justice published a new report of “experimental” statistics relating to the processing of privacy injunctions at the High Court or Court of Appeal. This follows a recommendation by the Master of the Rolls committee.

The statistics relate to injunctions dealt with in any civil proceedings in the High Court or Court of Appeal in London where the court considers an application for an injunction prohibiting the publication of private or confidential information, the continuation of such an injunction, or an appeal against the grant or refusal of such an injunction.

The report shows that from August to December last year there were four proceedings in the High Court which “considered an application for a new interim injunction”, three where the court “considered whether to continue or amend an interim injunction which had previously been granted” and two where the proceedings involved a consideration of “whether to issue a final, permanent injunction”.

The statistics do not cover injunctions arising from proceedings dealing with family issues, immigration or asylum issues, to proceedings which raise issues of national security, nor to most proceedings dealing with intellectual property and employment issues.

The four applications for new interim injunctions were all said to have been granted by the court.

At the Court of Appeal one further proceeding was also recorded involving “an appeal against a grant or refusal of an interim or final injunction”.

According to the International Forum for Responsible Media (Inforrm) blog, which has looked at the statistics in more detail here, “none of these cases appear to have involved threatened media publication” as “no media defendants were joined”.

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#jpod: The top news stories from Journalism.co.uk, 10 June 2011

June 10th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Podcast

Listen below for this week’s news round-up from Journalism.co.uk’s senior reporter Rachel McAthy and sign up to our iTunes podcast feed for future audio.

This week’s podcast looks at recent developments in the phone hacking case as News of the World publisher News Group Newspapers apologises to actor Sienna Miller in court, Apple’s apparent backtrack on its app subscription guidelines and the Attorney General’s warning for Twitter users on breaking injunctions.

We also hear about the tool of the week for journalists and news outlets – meporter – from technology correspondent Sarah Marshall.

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Guardian: Ministers agree on terms of reference for privacy committee

June 9th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Politics

The Guardian reports today that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and justice secretary Ken Clarke have agreed on terms of reference for the committee of MPs and peers to look at the balance between the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

David Cameron called for a joint committee to be established following the celebrity injunction furore. The terms include looking at the issue of enforcement in online publishing, which has been at the heart of recent events and controversies.

According to the Guardian the full terms of reference are:

  • To consider the operation of the current law in relation to privacy and the use of anonymity injunctions and superinjunctions and to advise the government on any improvements that should be made.

In particular, to consider:

  • How the current law, both statutory and common, has operated in practice.
  • How issues relating to determining the balance between privacy and freedom of expression, including particularly determining whether there is a public interest in material concerning peoples private and family life, could best be decided.
  • Issues relating to the enforcement of anonymity injunctions and superinjunctions, including in relation to publication on the internet, parliamentary privilege and the rule of law.
  • The role of the press and issues relating to press complaints and self-regulation in the context of privacy matters, including the role of the Press Complaints Commission and Ofcom.
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Brian Cathcart: Ten things I’ve learned about injunctions

June 6th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

I think (although this post may lead to me being quickly proved wrong) that I have been pretty careful and accurate in my reporting of various different injunction stories of late. This is largely thanks to my former colleague and media law blogger Judith Townend, whose exasperation with the media bandying around the term “superinjunction” I have seen first hand.

Not everybody has been cautious, and the term superinjunction seems to have been applied left, right and centre to celebrity injunctions. The fact that Ryan Giggs never obtained a superinjunction, and that there have only been two new superinjunctions in the past year — one lasting seven days and the other overturned on appeal – are two of ten lessons taken away from the whole affair by Kingston University journalism lecturer Brian Cathcart, who writes today on Index on Censorship.

The other eight include these gems:

There appear to be 75,000 British Twitter users who are ready, with the right tabloid encouragement, to participate in the “naming and shaming” (or pillorying) of adulterers.

When it suits them, the tabloids also blithely set aside their usual view that online social networking is an evil invention that causes crime, suicide, binge drinking, obesity, terrorism and cancer.

See his full list on Index on Censorship at this link.

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Independent: Poll finds judges ‘too ready’ to gag newspapers

June 1st, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

The findings of a poll run by the Independent show  the majority of respondents believe “judges have been too ready to issue gagging orders” which enable the rich and famous to protect their privacy, the paper reports.

People appear to have little sympathy with those high-profile film, television and sports stars who have resorted to the courts to stop embarrassing details of their private lives reaching the public domain, according to the ComRes survey.

According to the Independent, which reported last week that at least 333 gagging orders have been granted in the last five years, 70 per cent of voters in the poll agreed that courts had been “too willing” to grant injunctions.

A total of 65 per cent believed that “celebrities and sports stars owe their lifestyle to their public profile so they should not complain about intrusion into their private lives”.

Although voters disapprove of the efforts that well-known figures make to prevent damaging headlines, they also believe by a narrower majority that privacy rules have failed to keep pace with the rapid growth of the internet.

This comes as a new account appears on Twitter publishing allegations of identities said to be being protected by injunctions. Following a previous case of a Twitter account publishing accusations against celebrities of taking out injunctions, as well as the wide Tweeting of individual identities said to be subject to privacy injunctions, the site reportedly confirmed it would hand over details about users if legally obliged to do so.

According to reports, just this weekend, in an entirely separate case not related to injunctions, a local council was allegedly successful in making Twitter hand over user details for a court case.

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Guardian: Hunt rules out new privacy law

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has ruled out the introduction of a new privacy law, the Guardian reported today, following a meeting with justice secretary Ken Clarke.

This comes before the conclusion of a review of the use of superinjunctions by a special committee chaired by Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger, and expected shortly.

Hunt admitted the current situation was “bordering on farce”. Numerous gag orders have been granted to footballers, celebrities and other public figures and some of their names published on Twitter anyway.

After meeting with Clarke, Hunt said: “I don’t believe a privacy law is the way forward. We’re not minded to have a new privacy law but we’re not ruling out the need for legislative changes.”

See the full report here…

Earlier today the alleged details of a superinjunction obtained by former RBS chief Sir Fred Goodwin were raised in the House of Lords by Lib Dem peer Lord Stoneham, who was protected under parliamentary privilege.

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Telegraph: Lawyers apply for access to Sun journalists’ emails and texts

May 17th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal, Newspapers

Lawyers acting for a footballer at the centre of a superinjunction have applied for an order to gain access to emails and text messages sent by former editor of the Sun Kelvin Mackenzie and the paper’s employees, the Telegraph reports.

This follows comments made by Mackenzie on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme in relation to superinjunctions in general, when he said that when he gets texts asking who the people are – “I always reply who it is”, he said.

All the time I get flooded by readers emails every week asking for the name, and sometimes I give it and sometimes I don’t.

At the time he said he responds “despite the fact I’ve been warned by various judges and lawyers that I face the prospect of contempt of court and the prospect of going to jail”.

In the Telegraph’s report Richard Spearman QC, for News Group, is quoted as saying that the application “was disproportionate”.

“It is a very major incursion into (Sun employees’) rights and News Group as a media organisation,” said Mr Spearman. “It is wholly unprecedented to ask for an order in this way, on the basis of such flimsy evidence and to such a large extent.”

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Superinjuctions and celebrity privacy case numbers revealed

May 16th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

The Daily Star Sunday yesterday published an A to Z list of 50 superinjunctions and “anonymous injunctions”, including one which allegedly relates to someone who has died.

Publication of the list follows a week of much debate after a Twitter account featured a string of allegations against public figures accused of having taken out superinjunctions, some of which have since been publicly denied.

This weekend the Daily Star Sunday reported there are currently 12 superinjunctions in existance, of which no details can be reported. The paper then lists the remaining “anonymous injunctions”.

This came a day after the Mail reported that between 30 and 40 celebrities currently have legal protection in place. On Friday the Telegraph revealed the courts had issued 80 gagging orders in the last six years.

The International Forum for Responsible Media reported it hopes to provide its own list from public sources, shortly.

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‘Consider the risks’ warning over super injunction Tweets

May 10th, 2011 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

Many of you are likely to have heard by now about the Twitter account which appeared on Sunday featuring a series of allegations about public figures taking out super injunctions. The allegations, which received widespread coverage in the press, have since been denied by some of the individuals who were named, again using Twitter.

Since then there has been much debate about what this means for the future of this type of court order in an online world.

Yesterday on the International Forum for Responsible Media blog, Judith Townend collected together a number of opinions on the legal implications. One media lawyer, said to be a specialist in privacy law, told Townend that both social media users and mainstream media organisations should consider the risks.

But according to Danvers Baillieu, a senior associate and social media specialist lawyer at Pinsent Masons quoted in this article by the Telegraph, when it actually comes to the likelihood of someone taking action, “pragmatism prevails”.

…already thousands of people have either tweeted or re-tweeted protected information in the last few weeks alone. He said there was “no way” the authorities have an appetite to take action against swathes of Twitter users.

Similarly in such situations Twitter, for example, could say it is a US-based company and therefore not subject to European laws, the article adds.

It can also argue that its users are responsible for their own tweets and not the company. Furthermore, Baillieu said that Twitter can also defend itself on the basis of freedom of speech, under the First Amendment of the US constitution.

But while the legal issues remain cloudy, as Jon Slattery usefully illustrates in this blog post today, much of the national press continue to show the clearness of their feeling on the issue, claiming recent actions have “humiliated” the courts and resulted in a “legal crisis”.

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Kelvin MacKenzie: Online makes mockery of super injunctions

Technology is “making fools” of high court judgements in relation to injunctions, according to former editor of the Sun Kelvin Mackenzie.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today on Saturday, reflecting on Andrew Marr’s revelation last week that he had taken out a super-injunction to protect his family’s privacy, Mackenzie said there should not be any such protections afforded.

I am in favour of free speech. We get ourselves in a shocking situation now where there’s a sort of two-track society. There’s those of us who know what the allegations are and all the names of all the famous people, which are basically media folk, and there are the rest of the public who are denied of knowing.

He added that the “explosion” of the online world means allegations are instead just being published on sites based outside the US.

Allegedly intelligent high court judges … have absolutely no common sense on this issue or an understanding of how technology is making fools of their judgements.

Also speaking on the show was Desmond Browne QC, a member of the special committee set up by Lord Neuberger to examine the use of media injunctions by the courts.

I think there’s a substantial difference between someone who knows the name being able to go on Wikipedia, seeing that there has been a redaction and making a conclusion as a result, and something being plastered all over the front page of the Sun or the Daily Mail and I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the courts to simply give up in the face of something that may be accessible on the web.

On Sunday the Observer published a debate between Max Mosley, the former chief of Formula One who previously won damages of £60,000 from the News of the World for breach of privacy, and John Kampfner, chief executive of Index on Censorship, on the very issue of super-injunctions.

Mosley is currently trying to get the UK law changed in favour of “prior notification” before a newspaper publishes allegations about an individual. Speaking in the debate Kampfner claimed that if Mosley’s law succeeds “it will set back the cause of free speech by decades”.

Read the full debate here…

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