The Guardian today launched a stinging front page attack on the law firm Carter Ruck which yesterday used a ‘super injunction’ to stop it reporting Parliament.
The injunction, now withdrawn, temporarily stopped journalists reporting a question asked by MP Paul Farrelly about the oil firm Trafigura and the alleged dumping of toxic waste in Ivory Coast. It related to a the said ‘super injunction’ brought on 11 September by Carter Ruck and Trafigura to ban publication of the Minton report about the alleged toxic waste incident.
The Guardian said today in a front page comment: “It is scandalous that a law firm acting on behalf of a wealthy trading company should have thought, for a moment, that it could gag media organisations from reporting parliamentary business.
“These are lawyers who seem to have lost sight of the fact that people risked their liberty and their lives to fight for the right to report what their elected representatives say and do.
“It is little wonder that some social media websites went into virtual meltdown yesterday at the arrogant effrontery involved.”
Carter Ruck last night issued a statement claiming that The Guardian was being “highly misleading” by reporting yesterday that it had been “gagged from reporting Parliament”.
The statement said: ‘It is the case that, since 11 September 2009 an order has been in place against The Guardian and persons unknown. It should also be stressed that, since 18 September 2009, The Guardian has consented to that order remaining in place pending resolution of this matter.
“Until that resolution, it is not appropriate to comment on the substance of the order, other than to observe that much of the media reporting of this injunction has been wildly inaccurate.
“Contrary to the impression given by The Guardian’s article, when the order was made (and endorsed by the court), none of the parties had in contemplation the possibility of this matter being raised in the UK Parliament.
“Indeed, the order was obtained several weeks before Paul Farrelly MP tabled his parliamentary question, and which we learned of for the first time when The Guardian faxed us with it yesterday [Monday] afternoon.
“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.
“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.
“Following correspondence yesterday, we made clear to The Guardian that we would take further instructions on their request to vary the order and respond to them as soon as possible today, but despite (or because) of that they chose to publish their article last night and this morning regardless.
‘There is no question of Trafigura seeking to “gag” the media from reporting parliamentary proceedings, and the parties have now agreed to an amendment to the existing order so as to reflect that.”
It is not the first time The Guardian has been involved in an acrimonious dispute with Carter Ruck.
Last year Tesco used Carter Ruck to sue The Guardian after the paper wrongly reported that the supermarket chain had sought to avoid £1bn in corporation tax.
After admitting its mistake and making an “offer of amends” The Guardian was handed a legal bill by Carter Ruck of more than £800,000.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger told the Press Gazette media law conference in February this year that the bill “bears no relation at all to the damages claimed”, adding: “To read this document you would weep for the cause of freedom of expression in this country.”