Judge: Papers not obliged to hand over injunction stories

The principle that journalists should never give over their work for legal approval by a judge prior to publication has been upheld in a legal battle between the Telegraph Group and travel firm Thomas Cook.

The ruling came after The Daily Telegraph challenged an injunction banning it from naming a member of Thomas Cook staff questioned by Greek police in connection with the death of two children in Corfu last October from boiler fumes in a hotel.

Telegraph journalist Caroline Gammell contacted Thomas Cook on 12 October this year and warned that her paper was planning to name a member of its staff.

The travel agent then took the highly unusual step of seeking an injunction banning publication on the grounds of libel. Such injunctions are usually refused unless the proposed story has absolutely no possible libel defence.

However, a duty judge ruled in the travel agent’s favour and criticised The Daily Telegraph for not letting him see the full wording of its proposed article.

In a judgment last week, Mr Justice Eady said the earlier judge was wrong to do this, and cited Leary v BBC from 1989, in which the Court of Appeal ruled ‘that it was not appropriate to press a media defendant to reveal a draft article, because that was placing the court in the position of becoming a censor, and that was inappropriate.

‘It was recognised that sometimes media organisations prefer to let the court see what they are planning to publish. That is entirely for them, but they should not be pressed to do so against their wishes,’he said.

Eady rejected the interim ruling on the grounds of privacy but said the employee ‘has a reasonable expectation of privacy, given Greek procedures.”

The Daily Telegraph opted, therefore, to report that an unnamed Thomas Cook employee had been charged as part of the Greek investigation.

Telegraph lawyer David Price said: ‘A judge who doesn’t know a lot about media law can sometimes find it difficult to accept that a newspaper doesn’t want to disclose an article before publication.

‘As Mr Justice Eady has made clear, the alternative is a form of censorship.”

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