UK Continues Issuing Tons Of Super Injunctions To Keep Famous People From Being Embarrassed

from the really-now? dept

We've discussed a few times now the bizarre anti-free speech trend in the UK -- of courts handing down injunctions completely barring anyone from naming individuals accused of various things (whether or not those things are true is not clear). Apparently, there have been a whole series of such injunctions lately, mainly involving famous people who don't want the world to know stuff about them:
Nearly 30 footballers, actors and television presenters have won injunctions in recent weeks alone, preventing the press from publishing details of their sexual indiscretions.
That story mentions how an MP had to be censored on the BBC, not for naming one of those individuals, but by suggesting a word that rhymed with the last name of one of those individuals.

But, of course, this is the internet. You can't keep people silent. As TorrentFreak points out, if you do a search, say, on Twitter of the woman one such football player was accused of having an affair with, Imogen Thomas (her name is public, it's the guy's name who's verboten) you can pretty quickly find lots of people claiming they know the name of the football player.

The same sort of thing seems to be happening for a number of the other folks associated with these super injunctions. I've seen some claims that say these UK injunctions are "worldwide" injunctions, but I can't see how UK law can be applied outside of the UK -- especially on speech issues. Last year, of course, the US passed the SPEECH Act, which makes it clear that US courts shouldn't enforce defamation rulings from foreign courts that are in conflict with the First Amendment, but I do wonder if that also can be stretched to cover these kinds of free speech denying super injunctions.

In the meantime, it's a pretty sad statement on the UK, where they seem to prioritize protecting famous people from having to be embarrassed over free speech concerns.

Filed Under: free speech, injunctions, super injunctions, uk

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Duke (profile), 26 Apr 2011 @ 7:38am

    Political, not Legal problems...

    Ah, more political grandstanding from the government in their crusade on our judges. They've been at this for the last six months; a way of making the (pathetically weak) government look stronger in the eyes of the people.

    As for the matter; injunctions are granted all over the place, all the time - in the case of privacy, they are usually short-term stops (pre-trial) to prevent the spread of information when there's a very good case that that it will be found illegal to spread the information. The point is not to prevent the spread of the information (which has always been futile, even pre-Internet), the point is to limit the "damage" done by the information by keeping it from the major channels.

    The UK (and Europe) has always had a low interest in freedom of speech (a very US-centric concept), there are all sorts of way to limit it (privacy laws, defamation, contempt of court, copyright) and they exist because our society prefers it this way (apparently).

    In terms of our politicians whining that judges are making up privacy laws - this is complete rubbish. Parliament passed a privacy law 13 years ago; it is called the Human Rights Act 1998. This caused a huge problem for UK judges, who have had to try to bend existing laws to cover the right to privacy added - and they have seriously struggled over this (just look at some of the judgments in the big cases; Douglas v Hello, Campbell v MGN etc.).

    Parliament has had 13 years to step in and pass their own privacy law and have consistently failed to do so, because they really didn't care (and I imagine politicians quite like the availability of super-injunctions), the only reason they care now is that they can use the general public's lack of knowledge on this area to score some points against the HRA and judges.

    The problem with injunctions and super-injunctions (which are very rare) in the UK is not their existence; they are quite useful tools - the problem is the money required to get them. They are not available to "normal" people, only the super-rich. But this is a flaw in our (and most) legal systems; lawyers cost far too much money. Creating more laws probably isn't the best way of fixing this.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.