The Guardian was accused by Barclays Bank today of acting ‘like a vigilante’ by publishing a series of leaked memos relating to its tax affairs.
The newspaper was ordered in the early hours of this morning to remove seven documents from its website, published as part of its ongoing investigation into alleged tax avoidance at major companies.
The emergency injunction, which was due to expire at 4pm, has now been extended until further notice following the hearing today at the High Court in London.
Charles Hollander QC, representing the bank, told Justice Nicholas Blake that the leaked memos from a Barclays whistleblower were “privileged and confidential”.
He said the Sunday Times, which had also seen the documents and published a story based on them, had “taken the view that, having the documents, it was not appropriate to publish them – a position we very much agree with”.
The Guardian intends to argue that publishing the memos was in the public interest and within its right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act.
Hollander said it was “perfectly permissible” for a democratic society to engage in a public debate about a bank’s tax affairs.
But he added that the public interest would have been better served if The Guardian had passed the documents to the Financial Services Authority or HM Revenue and Customs rather than publishing them.
Referring to evidence given by Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger, Hollander told the court: “What he’s trying to do is usurp the statutory body set up by parliament [HMRC].
“What the Guardian are trying to do is taking things into their hands and that the proper way is to sort of act like a vigilante.”