Is it a Bird? Is It a Plane? No It's Super Injunction!
There has been a lot of media consternation in the last week about the growing trend for rich celebrities to cover up the more sordid elements of their private lives by resorting to the super injunction.
Costing £50K a pop it is not the sort of thing Joe Monkey down the pub can legitimately afford to employ when he is caught cheating on his missus with Tracy from accounts. Like some an expensive Elfin garment it grants the wearer anonymity from public scrutiny. Those in the know are not able to name the parties involved or even mention that a certain individual has taken out a super injunction.
Of course the press paint this legal shackeling as tantamount to censorship but let's not forget the tabloids make a fortune reporting, and at times bugging, the rich and famous so you can read about the girth of Russell Brand' penis as your eat your Sunday bacon butty. They are no saints.
Only yesterday Andrew Marr, the BBC broadcaster and jug-eared sex-bomb came clean and fessed up to taking out a super injunction in 2008. He said he was "embarrassed" about taking out the super injunction (although not about the adultery) saying:
'I did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists. I also had my own family to think about, and I believed this story was nobody else's business."
It is a shame he wasn't thinking about his family when he was boning someone else after a late night standing in front of number 10. It is worth noting this Damascene conversion didn't come purely out of the goodness of his heart. He was outed after Private Eye editor Ian Hislop expensively challenged the gagging order to highlight the hypocrisy of a journalist who has made a career of prying into the personal affairs of others gagging fellow journalists when it suited him. Commenting on Radio 4 Hislop said:
"I thought this was a touch hypocritical since he'd written a piece specifically about privacy law in which he said judges should not determine privacy law, it should be determined by parliament...therefore he had just done the exact opposite of what he believed.
Of course not every super injunction is challenged. Last week it emerged that three celebrities had sought super injunctions when their infidelities were on the verge of kiss n' tell stories in the tabloids. Out came the lawyers and the judge issued a gag. However, the Internet is the cyber equivalent of the Wild West, impossible to police and the leaked news spread like wild fire.
Of course websites started off cute. No mention of his name but confirmed that one of the aggreived was a married actor who was Scottish and had appeared in the Star Wars films. They might as well have said that when he to the shops he goes The Long Way Round.
Then as word spread people starting getting more confident. Like the fact that family man Ryan Giggs was slipping the salami to serial slapper Imogen Thomas. Ironic, Giggsy taking out a gagging order, when given Imogen's record for bedding footballers she, quite literally, was gagging for it.
You may argue that is it even in the public interest to know all about the sex-lives of celebrities? What the fuck has it got to do with you if Carlos Kickaball shags some fame hungry slapper? You may have a point. Personally it only bothers me if there is an element of hypocrisy to it. So if an MP is banging on about family values to his constituents and then is caught shagging the secretary behind his wife's back he has every right to shut up and take his medicine in the full public glare.
Not so easy to argue are the examples of big business hushing up unsavoury practices from being reported. Today it has emerged that scumbag rip-off artist Fred "The Shred" Goodwin has used a super injunction to hush up some shady dealings that may have caused the terminal collapse of Royal Bank of Scotland. It is currently being decided whether it is in the public interest for M.P's (parliamentary privilege grants MP's immunity from prosecution)to release this information.
In September 2009 solicitors on behalf of oil trader Trafigura, prohibiting the reporting of an internal Trafigura report into the 2006 Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste scandal that led to 100000 injuries and 15 deaths after toxic waste was illegally dumped. If it wasn't for a parliamentary question tabled by an MP and subsequently circulated on the Internet the information would have been suppressed.
David Cameron has expressed his "unease" at this growing trend for unelected judges to decide where to tilt the balance between freedom of press and the right to privacy.
The wider issue here is that super injunctions have gone from a legitimate tool to protect vulnerable people or criminal cases from collapsing to just a means for rich people to clean up their dirty laundry.
Of course you do realise I am going to go to prison for telling you all this?