National press goes on the attack over privacy injunctions

The national press continued to rally against ‘judge-made’ privacy laws today after two controversial gagging orders were granted at the High Court.

In the first case a high-profile premiership footballer’s attempts to gag revelations of his six-month affair with Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas was upheld. In the second case a rare ‘contra mundum’– latin for ‘against the world’- order was made, meaning the ban was ‘neverending and applied to anyone and everyone”, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

The Times made its point in dramatic fashion with a heavily redacted story on page three which claims: ‘The secrecy orders override the traditional principle of open justice in favour of the right to privacy or to prevent the risk of harm to family members who may be embarrassed by the revelations.”

The Times also highlights a broken pledge from politicians that human rights laws what not be used to create a ‘legal right to privacy behind the back of Parliament”.

At yesterday’s first High Court hearing, the barrister representing the Premiership star opposed the open hearing and claimed the media had behaved in an ‘utterly inappropriate’manner in reporting the allegations over the last week. The press were ordered to leave 10 minutes into the two-and-a-half hour hearing.

The Times also reports on the second gagging order that was made after a women tried to sell intimate pictures of a male celebrity, who claimed the mental health of his children would be put at risk if the pictures were published.

The woman and her partner had been in negotiations to sell the pictures to a national newspaper.

Both cases were heard by Mr Justice Eady, a judge described by The Times as ‘a leading figure in the development of judge-made privacy law”, who has come under increasing attack from the media in recent weeks.

In her commentary on yesterday’s proceedings, The Times’ legal editor Frances Gibb said: ‘If you go to the Royal Courts of Justice these days there is hardly a sniff of open justice… As reflected in our redactions above, reporting on these cases takes place in a fog where the truth is at best obscured.”

Both cases made a page lead in the Daily Mirror in a story headlined ‘Pre Love Rat Tightens Gag”, while the Daily Mail ran its second successive splash on gagging orders with its story ‘TV Star’s Shame Hushed Up For Ever”.

The Mail claims that the contra mundum order granted was ‘until now reserved for killer children”, referring to the fact that a similar order was granted to protect the identiy of the killers of James Bulger, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.

The Sun also runs a full-page story on the injunctions, highlighting the cases of thirteen famous names that have been granted gagging orders in recent weeks including ‘the public figure”, ‘the hero sportsman”, ‘the big TV earner’and ‘the two-time rat”.

The story goes on to describe the use of injunctions as ‘a growing menace to Britain’s proud tradition of free speech – and a creeping spread of draconian privacy laws even though none have passed by Parliament”.

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