A High Court judge refused this evening to allow the media to name a married footballer who has won an injunction protecting private information – despite his identity being widely reported on the internet.
Mr Justice Tugendhat, sitting in London, rejected a third attempt by a national newspaper to lift an injunction banning the naming of the star, who is said to have had a “sexual relationship” with reality TV star Imogen Thomas.
The Sun went to court late this afternoon to renew its bid to lift an anonymity order following the naming of a footballer in the House of Commons.
The claimant at the centre of the application was not named in court during today’s proceedings.
Announcing his decision to dismiss the application by News Group Newspapers, Mr Justice Tugendhat said that earlier this afternoon another judge, Mr Justice Eady, had refused a second application “to vary the injunction protecting the anonymity of the claimant in this case”.
Mr Justice Tugendhat pointed out that Mr Justice Eady had said that it was important to remember the law of privacy was not concerned solely with secret information, but also with intrusion and harassment.
Mr Justice Tugendhat added: “Very shortly after Mr Justice Eady said that, a name was mentioned by John Hemming MP in the House of Commons in the course of a question which was interrupted by the Speaker.
“On that basis News Group Newspapers asked me shortly after 5pm to hear a further application for the anonymity of the claimant to be removed.”
He added: “As the public now know, anyone who wanted to find out the name of the claimant could have learned it many days ago.
“The reason is that it has been repeated thousands of times on the internet, and News Group Newspapers now want to join in.”
Mr Justice Tugendhat said: “It is obvious if the purpose of the injunction were to preserve a secret it would have failed.
“But insofar as its purpose is to prevent intrusion or harassment, it has not failed.”
He added: “The fact that tens of thousands of people have named the claimant on the internet confirms the fact that the claimant and his family need protection from intrusion into their private and family life.”
The judge said: “The fact that a question has been asked in Parliament seems to me to increase and not decrease the strength of his case that he and his family need that protection.”
The injunction had not protected the claimant and his family from taunting on the internet, but it could still protect them from “taunting in the print media”.