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All a-twitter over super-injuctions

June 7, 2015

celebrity, news, web

The ‘net is closing on people who use Twitter to breach super-injunctions. The attourney general, Dominic Grieve, warned today that Twitter users in England and Wales were not exempt from prosecution and could face legal action if they name the subjects of such injunctions.

Mr Grieve told BBC Radio 4′s Law In Action programme that he would personally, albeit reluctantly, step in if he thought it necessary to uphold the rule of law, saying:

“I will take action if I think that my intervention is necessary in the public interest, to maintain the rule of law, proportionate and will achieve an end of upholding the rule of law.

“It is not something, however, I particularly want to do.”

It has been impossible to avoid the recent news coverage of super-injunctions. But why are they so controversial?

Well there are several reasons but the most important one, as far as the public is concerned, is that they are very exclusive to those can afford them. It costs around £20,000 to take one out, which is why Imogen Thomas’s name was all over the papers but her lover remained Mister Mystery – he could afford an injunction, she couldn’t.

This leaves us in a situation where privacy law is applicable to only those who can afford it. Even the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has expressed his concern that the courts are creating privacy laws – that’s Parliament’s job.

Of course, Imogen’s mystery man was outed, in spectacular fashion, as Ryan Giggs. Here’s how it went down:

First, his name was all over Twitter, which has ultimately led to the AG’s comments today. Giggs’ lawyers asked for the details of the users who had named him (which Twitter handed over without even blinking, by the way!) but it was deemed impractical to sue 75,000 people all at once.

Second, he was named in the House of Commons by John Hemming MP, who was protected by Parliamentary Privilege. This was a weird one, because the press then found themselves in the situation where they could not name Ryan Giggs as the man who slept with Imogen Thomas, but they could quite safely report that Mr Hemming had identified Mr Giggs, in the House of Commons, as the subject of an injunction!

The day before Mr Hemming named him, Ryan Giggs’ face was published on the front page of the Scottish newspaper, the Sunday Herald. You see, there is no such thing as an injunction under Scots law – the equivalent is called an Interim Interdict, and Giggs’ lawyers failed to apply for one at the Court of Session. That edition of the Sunday Herald was not distributed outside of Scotland and was not put online, therefore complying with the privacy order in the rest of the UK.

Whether Gigg’s lawyers just forgot that Scotland has a separate legal system, or they just didn’t know about injunctions vs interdicts, it was a spectacular failure. I hope he got a receipt…

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