Monday, December 14, 2009

Super Injunctions

After Trafigura (Google it if you don’t know), one of the first high profile super injunctions, it seems that they are on the rise again, with news on twitter and the blogosphere that law firm Schillings have been sending to whom it may concerns to all and sundry.

Super injunctions as they’ve become known are basically court orders banning the publication or dissemination of certain information, but also banning anyone from saying that there is a ban. In the past an injunction was often used on the grounds of national security, publication of the arrest of a terrorist suspect for example could tip off the rest of a terrorist cell sending them to ground and making them impossible to catch. However they are also used increasingly by  celebrities and those in the public eye to in the sanitized words of Guido and CharonQC keep their mistakes hidden and covered.

These kind of super injunctions also come with all kinds of threats, contempt of court citations, jail time, possession of assets and are meant to scare publishers into saying nothing, the problem is they’re only valid in England, and the Internet pretty much ignores them. So I can check Wikileaks say, or just look at a scottish website seeing details on the Scotsman website say that the Telegraph can’t publish or even talk about for legal reasons.

In my opinion Super injunctions are an over reach of the law and a mis-intepretation of it’s purpose. Yes I agree that an individual’s private life is their life. Just ask my wife, an avid Heat reader, and she will tell you I couldn’t possibly care less about the latest celebrity goings on, although I’ll happily admit that isn’t the case for most of the population.

I am certainly not in disagreement there has to be some protection in the law for an individual’s privacy but these super injunctions are not it. They are a distortion of my personal view of the law and the courts’ primary purpose, that is to protect society. Our laws are there to enforce the morals of society on society, the laws we have outlawing murder are there to say society as a whole believes murder is morally wrong and so society should be protected against it, not individuals but society.

The problem with injunctions and certainly super injunctions is that they only protect the individual, whilst injunctions on the basis of national security protect society. Injunctions on the basis of it making an individual feel uncomfortable or embarrassed do not protect society in the slightest. They are increasingly being used to cover up an individual’s mistakes so that the public don’t know about it.

So what’s the solution? The solution must be reform, reform of the libel and privacy laws of this country. Not the creation of new offences and the extension of the law into places it should not be, and not the enshrining of aims and aspirations into law,  but the reform of existing laws to make the system better. It is easy to blame the courts but they are only interpreting the law, it is the law that needs work not them.

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