May 222011
 May 22, 2011  Posted by  Breaches, Court, Non-U.S.

Adam Gabbatt and Matthew Taylor report:

The storm over the use of privacy injunctions to suppress publication of celebrity sexual indiscretions has escalated, with a Scottish newspaper revealing the identity of a footballer who allegedly had an affair with the model Imogen Thomas.


The Scottish newspaper, which the Guardian cannot name for legal reasons, devoted its front page to a large picture of the footballer’s face, with a black band across his eyes and the word “censored” in capital letters. The player is easily recognisable.

Below the picture is the text: “Everyone knows that this is the footballer accused of using the courts to keep allegations of a sexual affair secret. But we weren’t supposed to tell you that …”

In its editorial column, the newspaper wrote: “Today we identify the footballer whose name has been linked to a court superinjunction by thousands of postings on Twitter. Why? Because we believe it is unsustainable that the law can be used to prevent newspapers from publishing information that readers can access on the internet at the click of a mouse.

Read more in The Guardian.

This is really and truly absurd, isn’t it? A UK court-issued superinjunction has no force of law in Scotland, the Scottish paper reportedly claims, without a separate Scottish court order. The paper’s action is newsworthy, and yet The Guardian can’t even name the newspaper because of their understanding of the obligations imposed on them by the superinjunction (update – BBC, on the other hand, did name the paper, so it seems that media in the UK is not sure what the superinjunction requires them to avoid doing or naming).

The situation seems to suggest that one person’s right to privacy over an indiscretion trumps the rights of everyone else to speak freely about their lives and trumps the right of the press to cover the issue and news – even after everyone already knows the identity of the individual?

The UK courts have created an untenable situation as their actions will simply not be respected outside of their jurisdiction. As former PM Paul Marsden suggested, the UK needs legislation to address this issue and get it back under control.

Update: The Drum reports that the Scottish newspaper is The Sunday Herald.

Update2: An image of The Sunday Herald front page was uploaded to the Web. After such a gutsy move on the paper’s part, I wonder why they haven’t also posted this to their online version.  The Daily Mail also covers the Twitter uprising over perceived censorship; the TV star they allude to appears to be Piers Morgan.

Update3: It is difficult to connect to the Sunday Herald,  and they do not have the cover page photo or accompanying story quoted in The Guardian available online, but they have an editorial, Sex Lies and Privacy Laws available online.

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