Tag Archives: #trafigura

‘Super injunctions’ parliamentary debate: kicks off 2.30 pm

The effects of English libel law on the reporting of parliamentary proceedings will be debated in the House of Commons today at 14.30 pm.

You can watch it here at this link…

Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris secured the debate, following the legal row between the Guardian and Trafigura’s lawyers, Carter-Ruck.

Although a ‘super-injunction’ that stopped the Guardian reporting – or mentioning – the suppressed Minton Report was eventually lifted, it had prevented the Guardian reporting an MP’s question tabled for Parliament.

Carter-Ruck twice issued letters to the House, in regards to the case: firstly in response to media reports on how the firm was trying to ‘gag’ Parliament; secondly, indicating that the case could be ‘sub judice‘. On Friday Carter-Ruck abandoned its injunction and on Saturday the Guardian reported the draft report that Trafigura had battled so hard to keep secret. On Sunday Guardian.co.uk reported that the MPs’ debate would go ahead.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has dissected the injunction here for us on Guardian.co.uk although the document had already been made available by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) prior to the injunction being lifted.

The Times had also been issued with the same injunction, Wikileaks reported.


MediaGuardian: MPs’ super injunction debate to go ahead on Wednesday

John Bercow, speaker of the UK’s House of Commons, confirmed this weekend that parliament will this week debate the impact of so-called ‘super injunctions’ on parliamentary proceedings.

The debate will take place on Wednesday at 2:30pm (BST).

Full story at this link…

The debate follows last’s week action by legal firm Carter-Ruck, who tried to prevent media coverage of parliamentary question.

The particular question related to Trafigura, the oil trading company represented by Carter-Ruck, which has been involved in legal action with the Guardian.

Full details of last week’s campaign against Carter-Ruck and the action taken by the firm can be found at this link.

Malcolm Coles: Carter Ruck’s new attempt to gag Parliament

A version of this post first appeared on MalcolmColes.co.uk.

Having failed to stop the Guardian reporting an MP asking a question about its client British oil company Trafigura and the injunction concerning the Minton report, law firm Carter-Ruck is making a second attempt to gag Parliament.

The firm has written a 3-page letter to the speaker of the House of Commons – in the middle of which are these two paragraphs:

“Until that resolution [of the matter referred to in the injunction], it is not appropriate to comment on the Order [the injunction], other than to make it clear that we and our clients are in no doubt that it was entirely appropriate for us to seek the injunctive relief in question …

“Clearly the question of whether this matter is sub judice is entirely a matter for your [the speaker’s] discretion, although we would observe that we believe the proceedings to have been and to remain ‘Active’ within the definition of House Resolution CJ (2001-02) 194-195 of 15 November 2001 in that arrangements have been made for the hearing of an application before the Court.”

The resolution, which is subject to the discretion of the Speaker, being referred to says this:

Matters sub judice

Resolution of 15th November 2001

Resolved, That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, and to the right of the House to legislate on any matter or to discuss any delegated legislation, the House in all its proceedings (including proceedings of committees of the House) shall apply the following rules on matters sub judice:

(1) Cases in which proceedings are active in United Kingdom courts shall not be referred to in any motion, debate or question.

(b) (i) Civil proceedings are active when arrangements for the hearing, such as setting down a case for trial, have been made, until the proceedings are ended by judgment or discontinuance.

So although it is not spelt out in the letter, Carter-Ruck has written to the speaker to suggest that this matter is sub judice – active legal proceedings – and should not therefore be discussed in Parliament, according to the Westminster rules which prohibit MPs’ debates in those circumstances.

Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP had secured a debate for next week looking at the effects of English libel law on the reporting of parliamentary proceedings.

The speaker has not yet indicated whether he will provide a ruling.

Trafigura update: Jack Straw to examine use of ‘super injunctions’

The justice secretary Jack Straw will examine the use of so-called ‘super injunctions’ following yesterday’s Trafigura-Guardian row, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown told MPs in Parliament today.

As reported by PA Mediapoint on Press Gazette, Gordon Brown called secret injunctions, which not only banned reporting of a story but also the existence of the ban itself, an ‘unfortunate’ area of UK law.

Since yesterday’s events which saw Carter-Ruck abandon an attempt to stop the Guardian publishing a tabled question for Parliament, Peter Bottomley, a Conservative MP, told the house he was reporting Carter-Ruck, the law firm acting on behalf of Trafigura, to the Law Society, on the grounds that no lawyers should be able to inhibit the reporting of Parliament.

Carter-Ruck has disputed the Guardian’s account of events published on Monday evening, in a statement available via its website [Full contents at this  PDF link].

“There has never been any question of Trafigura applying for an injunction that had as its purpose the prevention of publication of any matter arising in Parliament.  No such application has ever been made,” it stated.

“Nevertheless, as formulated (and as The Guardian apparently accepts) the Order would indeed have prevented The Guardian from reporting on the  Parliamentary Question which had been tabled for later this week,” the statement said.

The Guardian stated in an editorial today that they were told not to report the question, in line with an existing order. “When we became aware that the existence of this order had been mentioned in a parliamentary question we sought to vary the terms of the injunction. We were advised by Carter-Ruck that publication would place us in contempt of court,” stated the Guardian.

Private Eye was the first publication to publish Paul Farrelly’s question, the fortnightly magazine proclaimed in a story on its site.

“The MP’s [Paul Farrelly] intention to test this conspiracy of silence [secret ‘super-injunctions’] by asking questions about it using parliamentary privilege was revealed in Private Eye 1246, which went on sale on 29 September – a full two weeks before the Twittersphere caught up with the story.”

“There is an emerging culture of anonymity in which justice is not even seen to be done, and that is an unfortunate, rather dangerous trend,” said Ian Hislop, the magazine’s editor.

“I thought Private Eye’s job was to expose this. That is why I decided to publish the MP’s questions as the first item in the parliamentary column in yesterday’s [Tuesday] edition of Private Eye,” he said.

“The questions mentioned a recent court case in which we were defendants and concerned a matter on which I had given evidence to a parliamentary select committee. It seemed to me impossible that, in 2009, there could be any reason why we would not be allowed to publish privileged material available from the House of Commons. I saw the questions on the parliament website and I could not think of any judicial ruling which could overrule parliament, so I went ahead. That’s what we’re for.”

But the UK injunction on the report referenced in Paul Farrelly’s question remains.

“The issuing by the courts of so-called ‘super-injunctions’ is rightly controversial and  a matter of growing concern,” MP Paul Farrelly said in a statement yesterday.

“That is why, using parliamentary privilege, I tabled these questions to Jack Straw at the Ministry of Justice as a matter of urgency.”

“The practice offends the time-honoured ‘rule against prior restraint’, which safeguards freedom of expression in this country. It also fails to protect whistleblowers, acting in the public interest. The huge legal bills involved in fighting cases, too, have a chilling effect on legitimate investigative journalism.”

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger on Trafigura’s ‘own goal’

Following an extraordinary attempt by lawyers Carter-Ruck to stop the Guardian reporting a parliamentary question, due to an existing ‘super-injunction,’ this came from the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger last night:

“Full circle… How the #Guardian is reporting #Trafigura own goal tonight http://tinyurl.com/yl4quac”

“That media organisations were unable to report a parliamentary question was due to a so-called ‘super-injunction’ obtained by the notorious law firm Carter-Ruck on behalf of Trafigura, a large London-based trading company. A ‘super-injunction’ is one which not only prevents any publication, but which is itself secret. Search in vain for the case in the court lists of the high court in London: it appears only as ‘RJW and SJW v The Guardian’. Under its terms, the Guardian was prevented from publishing a certain document: it was also banned from revealing that Trafigura had been to court to obtain an injunction. When we became aware that the existence of this order had been mentioned in a parliamentary question we sought to vary the terms of the injunction. We were advised by Carter-Ruck that publication would place us in contempt of court.”

What do you think about so-called ‘super-injunctions’? Let us know: via @journalismnews, in the comments, or via judith or laura [at] journalism.co.uk.

Carter-Ruck abandons attempt to gag Guardian on Trafigura question

As reported by the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger (via Twitter), lawyers Carter-Ruck will no longer try to prevent his publication reporting MP Paul Farrelly’s parliamentary question about Trafigura.

Here we are then, taken from the Parliament website, the question … in question:



N Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme):

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect:

(a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by

(i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and

(ii) Trafigura and Carter Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.


via Order Book Part 2.

The journalist and NGO collaboration to expose Ivory Coast toxic waste dump

It can now be reported that legal firm Carter-Ruck tried to prevent the Guardian from reporting MP Paul Farrelly’s question about UK oil trader Trafigura in Parliament, but it will no longer pursue its attempt.

Given this news, and that Trafigura and Carter-Ruck are trending topics on Twitter this morning, it seems timely to publish this commentary on events from last month.

[NB: Farrelly’s question concerns Trafigura and its solicitors, Carter-Ruck]

“Getting investigative journalists to co-operate is notoriously as difficult as herding cats,” said David Leigh, head of investigations at British newspaper, the Guardian, in a comment piece last month.

But a disregard for secretive journalistic conventions, led to his most recent large exposé: the events surrounding what many call one of the gravest pollution disasters in recent history.

Last month, the Guardian splashed with the story that British oil company Trafigura had offered a £30 million ($49,056,000) payout to 31,000 victims of toxic dumping in West Africa – £1,000 ($1,635) each.

The dumping itself –  400 tonnes of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast by an oil tanker, the Probo Koala, in 2006 – was already public, but less clear was what damage had been caused and whether Trafigura knew of its hazardous effects.

The Guardian reported the £100 million ($163,560,000) legal battle behind what it called a ‘cover-up exercise’ by Trafigura and published emails, allegedly showing that Trafigura ‘was fully aware that its waste dumped in Ivory Coast was so toxic that it was banned in Europe’.

(Trafigura response further detailed below; it denies liability and a cover-up.)

Global silence
Just the day before the Guardian published, Trafigura tried to get a gagging order on Dutch paper Volkskrant and Norwegian TV.

It had already attempted to force the Guardian to delete earlier news articles, and was successful in making the Times of London print a correction. A libel case was launched against the BBC’s flagship news programme, Newsnight.

Collaborative effort
Journalists from the UK, Norway, the Netherlands and Estonia joined with a lawyer from the firm Leigh Day, which had been attempting to sue Trafigura on behalf of 31,000 inhabitants of Abidjan, and the charities Greenpeace and Amnesty International in order to piece the story together.

The emails, which provided the bulk of the evidence, had been collected from various countries with the aid of the NGOs and then shared between the reporters, despite the legal threat looming large.

They decided they should go public when the United Nations published a scheduled report on the Ivory Coast disaster.

But Trafigura nearly put pay to the big scoop: it announced the compensation settlement to the West African victims, even though it continued – and continues – to deny liability.

Regardless, the Guardian and then Newsnight went public.

The links:

Global reaction
Despite the legal risk, allegations and emails were published without relying on Wikileaks. But the whistleblowing organisation did offer its own leaked document and praised the Guardian for its ‘solid work,’ via its Twitter feed (@wikileaks).

Greenpeace, a leading environmental campaigning organization, wants to see Trafigura prosecuted for manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, and cites documents which it says demonstrate the waste’s high toxicity.

In September, Trafigura’s £30-million pay-out was approved in the UK High court. But, as Katy Dowell of theLaywer.com pointed out, it’s not a straightforward victory for the claimants: Trafigura has never accepted liability. The victims only got a third of their overall claim and legal fees are yet to be discussed, she added.

Trafigura still claims that the firm representing the claimants, Leigh Day & Co, ‘had failed to demonstrate any link between the waste deposited and any deaths, miscarriages, still births or other serious injuries’. It also denies any allegations of a ‘cover-up’. In its statement on September 19 it claimed the company which actually dumped the ‘slops’, Compagnie Tommy, did so without authority. The settlement ‘vindicates’ Trafigura, the company claimed.

UK libel laws threat to democracy
It is another example that questions the place of UK libel laws in a functioning democracy. Vital facts about a devastating pollution disaster nearly went completely unreported, as a result of the huge costs involved in going to court.

Campaigning environmental journalist at the Guardian, George Monbiot commented that it’s not surprising that most of the British media wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole: “The reason isn’t hard to divine: Trafigura has been throwing legal threats around like confetti.”

He threw in a frightening thought:

“How many Trafiguras have got away with it by frightening critics away with Britain’s libel laws?

“These iniquitous, outdated laws are a threat to democracy, a threat to society, a threat to the environment and public health. They must be repealed.”

Susan Perry commented on the case for the MinnPost. Originally from the US, she was glad to be leaving the UK:

“It wasn’t only the story itself that stunned me. I was also astonished to hear the BBC journalists describe how the reporting of the story had been essentially suppressed in Europe’s mainstream media until last week. Only by banding together did the BBC and other media outlets dare to go public with the information they’d uncovered.”

‘Firms like Carter-Ruck have become expert at pressing certain legal buttons,’ says David Leigh

The Guardian could go to court today to challenge a ban by lawyers Carter-Ruck on reporting Parliament, its editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger has reported on Twitter.

Last night, as explained at this link, the Guardian reported that it has been prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings, specifically a question submitted by an MP.

The Guardian was prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found. But bloggers and Twitterers quickly started spreading information about the case and speculating on what the question might be.

Stephen Fry and a silent flashmob organiser are among those to express support via Twitter.

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg wrote that he is very interested and ‘concerned’ about the Guardian story. “The @LibDems are planning to take action on this,” he said in a tweet.

“I find it difficult to believe that the courts will try to gag free speech and the reporting of parliament in such a casual way,” the Guardian’s head of investigations, David Leigh, told Journalism.co.uk.

“I’m afraid they do it because firms like Carter-Ruck have become expert at pressing certain legal buttons. The failure of some  judges to understand the nature of the foundations of democracy in this country is the underlying problem.”

Mainstream media outlets, except the Spectator, have yet to report the gag. The First Post today carries a profile of Carter-Ruck’s late founder, Peter Carter-Ruck: ‘The man who invented the London libel industry’.

As noted by InTheNews.co.uk, #trafigura was a top trending topic on Twitter this morning, with Carter-RUCK, #carterruck and Trafigura all trending highly as well.

Last month the Guardian reported how UK firm Trafigura had tried to cover up a ‘pollution disaster’ in the Ivory Coast. Writing for the title, George Monbiot also commented on the paper’s lengthy legal battle with Trafigura.