Tag Archives: Injunction

Internet destroys Fred Goodwin’s super-injunction about alleged affair

I’ve written before about superinjunctions, the difficulties of bloggers learning about reporting restrictions (featured) and the problems the internet causes for super-injunctions.

This morning, however, has seen a deliberate attempt by some people to use the internet to reveal the alleged affair that the super-injunction about disgraced RBS boss Fred Goodwin supposedly covers. Continue reading

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What does John Terry’s case mean for superinjuntions?

The superinjunction obtained by England Captain John Terry was overturned on Friday – and the case raises some interesting issues (cross posted from John Terry: another nail in the superinjunction coffin):

  • Ecen when the superinjunction was in force, you could find out about the story on Twitter and Google – both even promoted the fact of Terry’s affair – via the Twitter trends list and the real-time Google search box.
  • No one got the difference between an injunction and a superinjunction – the former banned reporting of Terry’s alleged affair, the latter banned revealing there was an injunction. They weren’t necessarily both overturned, but there was a widespread assumption you could say what you liked about Terry once the superinjunction was overturned. This wasn’t necessarily the case …
  • The Mail and Telegraph seemed to flout the superinjunction – as did the Press Gazette which decided if wasn’t bound as it hadn’t seen a copy. This seemed risky behaviour legally – which makes me wonder if the papers were looking for a weak case to try to discredit superinjunctions.
  • This superinjunction should never have been granted. What was the original judge thinking?

Google and Twitter ignored the superinjunction

Tweets from while the superinjunction was in force

Tweets from while the superinjunction was in force

The superinjunction was overturned at about 1pm or 2pm on Friday. Needless to say, the papers had a field day over the weekend. Continue reading

Pluck out your eyes: the anatomy of a super injunction

Super injunctions – those that don’t just order a newspaper not to report something, but forbid it from reporting the existence of the reporting restrictions – are on the rise.

The Guardian has been served with at least 12 notices of injunctions that could not be reported so far this year, compared with six in the whole of 2006 and five the year before.

And Carter Ruck continue their kafkaesque moves to stop reporting about Trafigura and the Minton report (their latest attempt is to write to Parliament saying it can’t discuss the matter, at the same time as saying they’re not trying to forbid anyone reporting what Parliament discusses. That’s because there wouldn’t be anything to discuss).

So what does a super injunction look like? I’ve got hold of one – I obviously can’t say which and I’ve had to leave out the juicy bits. But here’s what it says. Continue reading

The complicated case of the (now not) anonymous police blogger, The Times, and ‘public interest’

Widely lauded anonymous police blogger NightJack has had his identity revealed after The Times took the affair to court.

It’s a cloudy affair. The Times’ angle is that media correspondent Patrick Foster wanted to ‘out’ someone he felt “was revealing confidential details about cases, some involving sex offences against children, that could be traced back to genuine prosecutions” as well as offering “advice to people who found themselves the subject of a police investigation.”

NightJack’s case for preventing the publication of his name was that he would be (and indeed has already been) punished by his superiors.

Mr Justice Eady didn’t buy that, saying: “I do not accept that it is part of the court’s function to protect police officers who are, or think they may be, acting in breach of police discipline regulations from coming to the attention of their superiors.”

The Times also reports him as saying “that even if the blogger could have claimed he had a right to anonymity, the judge would have ruled against him on public interest grounds.”

Hugh Tomlinson, QC, for the blogger, had argued that “thousands of regular bloggers who communicate nowadays via the internet under a cloak of anonymity would be horrified to think that the law would do nothing to protect their anonymity of someone carried out the necessary detective work and sought to unmask them”.

The judge said … the blogger needed to show that he had a legally enforceable right to maintain anonymity in the absence of a genuine breach of confidence, by suppressing the fruits of detective work such as that carried out by Mr Foster.

But Mr Justice Eady said that the mere fact that the blogger wanted to remain anonymous did not mean that he had a “reasonable expectation” of doing so; or that The Times was under an enforceable obligation to him to maintain that anonymity.

There are so many elements to this case it’s difficult to pick them apart.

  • On the one hand we have a blog which is potentially, in some circumstances, in contempt of court, written by a policeman who is, strictly speaking, breaking his obligations under the “statutory code governing police behaviour and general public law duty”. That’s The Times’ ‘public interest’, or at least the case that they made (The Times have history here – it would have been interesting to have seen the public interest argument for publishing the name of Girl With A One Track Mind).
  • On the other we have someone’s privacy.
  • But the 3rd point – and it’s interesting that this doesn’t seem to have been used as a defence – is that this is a ruling that has enormous implications for whistleblowers and people blogging ‘on the ground’. That’s someone else’s ‘public interest’.

And that last element is the saddest for me.

With the disappearance of NightJack (his blog has already been deleted*), we lose one more ‘voice on the ground’. While The Times focused on the letter of the law that was being broken, the broader public interest of letting public servants voice their…

frustrations with … attempts at the reform of policing which, he says, has turned officers from “approachable neighbourhood figures into neon-clad stormtroopers.””

…has been ignored.

It is difficult enough to get soldiers to blog, for people to get a genuine feel for the experiences of NHS workers, civil servants and teachers.

And it just got harder.

UPDATE: Curiously, The Times appear to have prevented their reporter from speaking about the issue on Radio 5.

UPDATE 2: A couple of Times journalists have gone on the record with their feelings about the affair.

UPDATE 3: NightJack himself has written a piece in The Times on the story behind the case. Anonymong describes it as “reminiscent of a communist show trial where the accused is allowed to publicly confess their sins and misdemeanors.” But the comments tell a very different story of support.

UPDATE 4: I’ve written a guide to anonymity for bloggers.

UPDATE 5: Via Anonymong:  “as noted by Anna Raccoon there is now some precedent for investigating and publishing identifying material relating to a serving police office as prohibited by the counter terrorism act 2008.”

UPDATE 6: As you’d expect, someone has dug into Patrick Foster’s past and come up with some dirt of their own.

UPDATE 7: Fellow public service blogger and ambulance driver Tom Reynolds gives his views on the case. Chicken Yoghurt gives his on the media’s use of anonymous sources. David MacLean responds: “Of course journalists rely on anonymous sources, but if a rival national newspaper found out who was tipping off a competitor, they’d more than likely expose them if the resulting story would be of interest to the public.”. Emily Bell highlights the raft of furious comments on The Times’ Crime Central blog. Gary Andrews gives his take. And Journalism.co.uk round up some more besides.

UPDATE 8 [Jan 24 2012] It seems that Nightjack’s email was hacked in order to get that story.

(h/t Girlonetrack) *Thanks to Martin in the comments: if you type “site:nightjack.wordpress.com” into Google, the pages appear to be cached. Don’t know how long that will last though.