back to article Journos 'risk charges' for covering Parliamentary debates

Journalists who report on Parliamentary debates on subjects covered by court gagging orders could be in contempt of court, a committee of judges and legal experts has said. Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger headed the committee, which today published a report into the increasing use of injunctions and super-injunctions to …

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  1. Trainee grumpy old ****
    Stop

    Would the press be so keen

    if one of their own was involved?

    I couldn't care two hoots what any alleged "celebrity" has been upto, but is what many in the press / media are calling for really about free speech or is it a licence to strip all of us of any remaining privacy?

    1. Anonymous John

      One of their own is involved.

      A unnamed journalist/TV presenter may be facing prosecution for outing an injunctionisto.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        WTF?

        Who is threatening him?

        I know it is not the usual one on the Scottish paper.

        So who is the latest person I have never heard of before wrecking the English legal system?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits

          The journalist in trouble has claimed on twitter that he's not really a "top journalist" - "Like I've ever written a proper story in my life"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Drunk in charge of a Twitter account

            And they want him jailed.

            What is the world coming to

    2. The BigYin

      Maybe they would

      Why don't we ask Andrew Marr?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Absurd

    So, Hansard is protected - but those who report on the contents of Hansard are not.

    We'll see newspapers saying "We'd like to report on this, however, we are unable to for legal reasons - for details please see:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110519/debtext/110519-0003.htm" - perhaps with a QR code to the Hansard article.

    (in that example was a debate on rural broadband - just as an example).

    Parliament needs to tackle this problem head-on with legislation - the current situation is a farce and we can't rely on judges who still think we're in the 1950s.

    1. Richard Gadsden 1

      Not quite

      Verbatim reports are permitted, the question is whether other reporting is.

      A newspaper could run a verbatim report and would have the same protection as Hansard, but if they want to address the question in their own language, paraphrase, edit or in general write their own story, then they may not be protected.

      The absolute privilege of parliamentary proceedings is established by the Bill of Rights (1689), and it extends to verbatim reports. Because Hansard consists solely of verbatim reports, it has absolute privilege entire.

      Whether a report of parliamentary proceedings has qualified privilege if it's not verbatim (qualified, because it's only privileged if it's a fair and accurate report) is unclear - court reports have exactly that qualified privilege, and it would make sense for parliamentary reports to do so.

      Because that privilege exists in common law (ie not defined by statute) and because the question has never been tested in court, no-one can know for certain whether parliamentary reports have QP - it would be expensive to find out.

      1. David Neil

        Verbatim

        But it isn't strictly verbatim is it?

        For example if an MP stands up in the house and gets into a personal slanging match with the speaker it is generally recorded as [Interruption] in Hansard, rather than a word by word account of the exchange

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Nah

      Nah, they'd likely not link that directly. Sort of like how no English papers are daring to mention the super-injunction breaker's twitter account name, but instead skirting around by calling them 'a user on Twitter'. Incidentally, can one be bound by a super injunction if it hasn't been served on you? Surely that leads to the Kafka-esque position of being criminally liable for breaking an injunction you have no knowledge of...

    3. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Up

      @Absurd

      Also does BBC Parliament Channel have to put in a time delay with a "CENSOR" button to bleep out any names that might be covered by an injunction...?

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  4. Ralph B
    Troll

    Imogen Thomas

    Imogen Thomas is a jolly pretty girl, isn't she?

  5. TeeCee Gold badge
    FAIL

    @The Judges and Lawyers.

    The genie is out of the bottle. Please stop trying to stuff it back in with the sink plunger, it just makes you look silly.

  6. Old Tom

    How do I check?

    If I want to repeat on a blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc something I've heard from a plausible source, then how do I find out whether there's an injunction against it? I'm not a journo or media type and the courts would have no reason to contact me when new injunctions are taken out.

    Can I write to the court asking whether there's an injunction covering each particular snippet of information I may have?

    Maybe it would be easier if they published a list?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No need to check

      An injunction can only apply to you if you know about it, and you're not required to go looking for injunctions that might apply to you. Publish away.

      However, if you tweet your information with a "superinjunction" tag or post it as a comment to an article about superinjunctions, a court is likely to infer that you were aware of the injunction, even if indirectly.

      1. Ralph B
        Dead Vulture

        Confirmation by Deletion?

        I posted a message here saying that a certain professional football player was "a super football player", and nothing more. The Reg Moderatrix has removed this innocent post, presumably due to some inside knowledge of a superinjunction.

        By thus indirectly confirming the identity of the Man U no. 11, I'd say the Moderatrix is due for a massive legal walloping.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Getting dangerous

    The judges are on about wanting to jail over 30,000 injunction breakers.

    I think the only way to deal with it is to post the information everywhere.

    How can they lock up say 1 million people?

    Come on government, sort out the judiciary sooner rather than later.

    Personally they should allow hunting with hounds for lawyers, I mean they are vermin!

    BTW who is trying to get the journalist jailed?

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Rape should be legal [not really]

      So let's all you fellows go out and rape somebody, they can't prosecute millions of us for it.

      No, I don't mean it. What I mean is that whether the, um, mass civil disobedience would or wouldn't work is beside the point, which is about the morality of free speech (or lack of it) and its reckless misuse.

      Apparently you're not allowed even to talk about the superinjunctions but we are led to believe that some of them are to prevent reporting that two people have copulated, on the basis that such reporting without the consent of one of them infringes their right to privacy. I'm not sure I agree with that. But if it's the law it's the law. And mindlessly retweeting the prohibited information isn't heroic.

      An unrestrained press... is free to tell you how to vote, and can make you believe it. That's bad.

  8. Da Weezil
    Paris Hilton

    No Sympathy

    This needs to be fixed. If the celebs dont want a life in the public eye (and the mega bucks that go with it) then all they need to to is accept the mundane lives most of us have devoid of privileged treatment and mega wealth - then no one will be interested in them.

    If on the other hand they crave the public eye, and the money and pampering that goes with it then they need to either keep their personal lives in order or accept the curiosity and commentary that goes with it.

    The sad thing is that some of these examples of the human race are role models for the more impressionable in society - a fact they seem oblivious of - probably blinded by the piles of money thrown at them for whatever it is they are famous for.

    While I can understand a call for privacy at a time of grief - a death for example - can see no merit in the suppression of legitimate news stories due to the embarrassment they may cause whoever it is this week caught with their pants off... (or wearing the wrong pants). I have to wonder at the reasoning of the legal "brains" behind this stuff.

    It seems our legal bods have caught Americanitis and think they have worldwide Jurisdiction where in fact they don't. When laws are used like this it brings the whole legal profession into disrepute and illustrates clearly the disgrace that in Modern Britain it is still easy for the rich to buy a brand of justice that suits them. Maybe we should put our own house in order before we go lecturing other countries on censorship, as this is no less insidious.

    Paris because she knows about blowing more than the gaff!

    1. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Down

      @No Sympathy

      You say you "can see no merit in the suppression of legitimate news stories due to the embarrassment they may cause whoever it is this week caught with their pants off... (or wearing the wrong pants)" but you miss the difference between "What the Public may be interested in" and "Public Interest (meaning "what is of benefit to the Public")

      The media (bless their cotton socks) are, of course, deliberately trying to blur and confuse the distinction because the former is what sells more newspapers/ gets more viewers even though there is no *benefit* to the public other than some salacious tittle-tattle to liven up their breakfasts.

      Revealing someone as a hypocrite (eg John Major preaching "family values" whilst he's shagging Edwina Currie on the side) is perfectly legitimate reporting, but stories about "We caught X in bed with Y" is just muck-raking gutter journalism.

      1. Colin Millar

        Missing the point

        A public interest test should be applied when one is planning to step away from the norm.

        We don't have a bill of rights in the UK and the pols and judges tell us there is no need because we live in a permissive society (i.e. you can do anything you are not specifically prohibited from doing). If this is true the rule should be that anyone has the right to publish anything unless it can be shown that it is in the public interest to suppress.

        What the judges are saying is that you must show that it is in the public interest to publish.

        Right now they are basing this on some interpretation of the adoption of the Human Rights Act and applying it to individuals but we have a history (and indeed a common law) which allows corporations to be treated as individuals.

        See where this is going yet?

        1. Graham Marsden
          Thumb Down

          Not missing the point at all!

          "A public interest test should be applied when one is planning to step away from the norm."

          Oh really? And who decides what this "norm" Is? As I've posted before, I make BDSM equipment but it is *MY* choice to post that, not yours nor anyone else's.

          What about someone being gay? If they choose to "out" themselves, that's up to them, but I don't accept that anyone else has the right to do that unless they're preaching from an anti-gay stance.

          You say "the rule should be that anyone has the right to publish anything unless it can be shown that it is in the public interest to suppress" and whilst I can agree with that, it's only when that there is actually a public interest benefit in publication.

          Revealing details of someone's private life simply to sell newspapers etc is *not* in the public interest because there is no benefit to the public.

        2. Vincent Ballard

          Bill of Rights

          @Colin Millar, the Bill of Rights 1689 is the basis for the privilege discussed in the article, as well as the basis from which the US Bill of Rights was derived.

          1. Colin Millar

            Bill of Rights 1689

            Has nothing to do with individuals though - just the rights of the other 2 estates which was converted to parliamentarians by reason of their provenance as clergymen and nobles - comoners never got a look in.

            The point at issue isn't parliamentary privilege - it is a misapplication of a public interest test which is creating out of nothing a de-facto judicial oversight of the press.

            @Graham Marsden

            I am not referring to a behavioural norm - if there is such a thing.

            We shouldn't even be considering the public interest when someone publishes something UNLESS someone is claiming that it is in the public interest to suppress the information. The press should not have to show a public interest in publishing anything - it should be for the censors to show the damage to the public interest - that is the norm that I am talking about.

            In other words the question should be "Why should we not allow publication?" but the question being posed is "Why should we allow publication?" - a presumption of suppression that runs directly counter to the principle of freedom of expression.

    2. David 45

      Hear hear

      Ooh........ah.........(splutter). Where am I? Is it my round already?

      Very well said, my good man. I couldn't have put it better myself. Public people should learn how to deal with public scrutiny. If you can't stand the heat.......etc.

  9. Saucerhead Tharpe

    In far off Scotia..

    Where such super-injunctions do not apply

    We spoke about the injunction briefly, that is the story, where two consenting adults stick things seemed of little relevance

    So now you have a situation where many know who is involved, but no one talks about it publically (except for viewers in Scotland)

    I'd reckon this is salightly worrying

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  11. Bluenose
    Stop

    Who decides the public interest

    Lets be clear, newspapers disliike these injunctions because they prevent them from printing salacious gossip in order to obtain sales. The reality is the media has appointed itself the sole arbiter of what is "in the public interest" and that is determined by what they think will sell newspapers 'cos real news is no longer enough.

    Personally, I don't find who is shagging who to be in my interest (being a member of the public) and wish that the papers would focus on real issues (like the Register). So as far as I am concerned who Imogen Thomas has been having fun with is something for her to and her friends. As to Fred Goodwin, if his affair is in part responsible for the collapse of the bank then I am all for the responsible reporting.

    Just because somone is rich doesn't mean their bedroom antics should be printed all over the front page. Mind you this whole issue has meant that even without naming him the media has managed to shift a lot of papers just on the back of this issue. One has to ask why they did not make such a big stink over the Trafigura super injunction especially as that story was far more in the public interest.

    1. Anonymous John

      Reply to this post

      I'm not interested in what he's been up to, but what is a matter off public concern is the the law thinks it can take on the Internet and win.

      It's in nobody's interest for it to make itself look as foolish as it has done in the last few days.

    2. David Neil

      Mr Goodwin & the rest

      The problem with the Goodwin injunction was that the terms granted by the courts were such that you couldn't inform the FSA or the shareholders of the relationship between the Chairman and a senior member of staff, and any questions of improper conduct were hushed up.

      The way in which these injunctions are coming about also stinks to high heaven, you stand up in court and say don't let person A tell a newspaper about events involving her as my kids might get the piss taken out of them.

      Perhaps if you'd kept it in your football shorts and not knobbed someone who has demonstrated a willingness to expose their life for 15 mins of fame and a photo shoot in Nuts we might have some sympathy.

  12. David Pollard

    Hidden benefit

    If the satisfaction from these salacious stories can only be had by scouring Hansard or watching the parliament channel there could be a hidden benefit. By bringing the rest of what is debated in parliament to wider public scrutiny.there might just be some improvement in democratic accountability.

    Well, you have to hope...

  13. JakeyC

    Master of The Rolls

    I don't see what the sandwich guy has to do with any of this...

  14. Clarissa
    FAIL

    Sillyness personified

    As parliamentary debates are all recorded in Hansard and are thus publicly available, trying to stop the MSM reporting on them is somewhat absurd. Has the Master of the Rolls forgotten what happened when Carter-Ruck tried their hand at that one regarding a parliamentary question about Trafigura?

  15. Richard Jukes

    heh

    Journalists have, as far as I am aware (and I did study Journalism Law quite a bit) a right under parliamentry privilage to report on events in either house without the risk of libel/slander/defamation or encountering any other legal problems. However I believe it may be the case that they must strictly quote events in either house, rather than put it in their 'own words' or pass a comment on what has been said that could be considered illegal.

    Obviously, this somewhat limits a newspapers quota of gossiping and speculation, however it does allow word for word reporting of the facts of what was said in either house. Something that will still allow the news to be published but will of course limit any opinion pieces on the news in question.

    Of course, we should all be asking ourselves where did the Honourable Ladies and Gentlemen whom have mentioned it in either house first heard the news from...perhaps they themselves have breached the injunction themselves upon hearing the news in the first place.

  16. GarethJones
    WTF?

    Where does this leave

    BBC Parliament? As they would have to break broadcast, mute the sound or delay broadcast, Just in case someone say's something that would break this rather stupid and farcical law.

  17. jevs

    Where & when this matters

    Although it was interesting to see certain family orientated footballers parading their children around Old Trafford yesterday, that doesn't really matter in the wider scheme of things. Stupid people with money or clever people with money, having lots of money makes you do stupid things.

    Super injunctions matter is when odorous City legal firms try to prevent the reporting of Parliment; or, when a man-who headed a major bank that is about to go bust & require tax-payer intervention to save it-tries to prevent reporting of his affair with a fellow execuctive-who is also involved in key decision making ataforementioned bank; as tax payers are effectively board members now, they most definitely have a right to know about that.

    1. SkippyBing

      Agreed

      I wonder if the law firms are trying to push the salacious gossip angle of super-injunctions to distract from the fact a number of their clients are using them to cover up far more serious matters such as the Triafuga incident. I.e. to get some sort of privacy law enacted to 'protect their clients from tittle tattle and gossip' while handily also providing a means for items of genuine public interest to be hidden.

      Of course if everyone sets up their own blog and reports court proceeding, they'd have to issue everone with injunctions. Which kind of defeats the point as we'd all know...

  18. heyrick Silver badge

    The point of it all?

    My previous post got rejected, which perhaps suggests how silly the entire thing is, for I made a vague allusion to the person concerned in a so-called super-injunction (I live in France, not covered) having looked it up on Wiki (probably not covered). But El Reg... being British... come on, is this sort of gag behaviour really in the public interest? The fact that at the whim of very few people, an entire country can be kept in the dark from what _everybody_ else knows concerns me rather more than the topics that said gags are trying to hide.

    In my opinion, an injunction should only be issued if public reporting of the event would damage prospects for a fair trial (etc), and a super-injunction should only be issued if the information being made public could present a threat to public order, national security (etc).

    The idea of using such things for a person to try to retain their integrity by gagging reports of such things as financial dishonesty, cheating on the wife, etc, is reprehensible. If a random famous person wants to protect their privacy, they shouldn't be doing whatever it is that is going to set off a media frenzy...

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: The point of it all?

      Yeah, irony, huh?

      Of course we know it's ridiculous but put yourself in our position, or if it's simpler for now, mine.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        thedailymash

        thedailymash.co.uk have no such compunctions about naming names, and they're based in the UK. Seems some sites have bigger balls than others :D

      2. The BigYin

        Question

        I thought (and I may be wrong) that publishing in UK terms of the web was interpreted as the act of seeing it in one's browser (the bits get jiggered around and "published" to the screen).

        If that is true, does it mean that the mere act of viewing a foreign site that says "X bunga-bunga avec Y" when in the UK is a breach of the super-injunction?

        Of course, there is an easier option to all this; keep yer snake in yer pants.

        1. David Neil

          Pretty sure that's the current stand

          I seem to recall some Ukrainian site being sued because they had something like 20 or 30 hits form the UK over a story they published. The High Court ruled against the Ukrainian site and they are now facing a rather hefty legal bill.

      3. heyrick Silver badge
        Happy

        Irony

        Now an MP named him, and following that, so did everybody else, regardless... Sarah, this whole silly story is beyond ridiculous.

        1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Irony

          Well, gawd, don't look at me, I just work here.

  19. David Lester

    Who do you invite to a Dinner Party with Andrew Marr?

    Another question is the old Private Eye trick, whereby we conclude an article about the fragrant Imogen, with -- apropos nothing at all -- a quick: "Lester Haines is 57".

    I noticed rather a lot of that in the last issue, including apparently interesting speculation on who best to invite to a dinner party with Andrew Marr.

    I think it'd be best if their Lordships got their thinking straight on these relatively simple matters before taking on the complexity of the interwebs.

  20. Purlieu

    I always thought that

    Parliament makes laws and hudges administer laws.

    (nd occasionally interperet etc e.g. precedent.)

    and not ... Judges make laws and Parliament can't speak of it.

    It's time that certain people had their fortunes told.

  21. Matthew 3

    "Khan said the reporting of her name proved that she did not possess a super-injunction."

    Which is true. She hasn't had one since March.

    Before then, not so true.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Not right at all.

    They are saying that it would be OK to constrain reporting on proceedings in parliament, beyond any measures parliament itself may wish to impose (such as discussing issues in private). Regardless of the issue in question or the herd of cats that they're trying to bag, the suggested solution would significantly damage the openness of the parliamentary system. It would be bad for parliament and our (semblance of) democracy. If parliament accepts this line then they will have betrayed the trust we have placed in them.

  23. Chris 193

    It is

    The fact is the celebrities in question are usually gaining from their celebrity through endorsements and such, and it's those which they're seeking to protect. In other words profiting from their deception. I think it's in the publics interest to be made aware of such things, not for titilation, but to show them up for the lying scum bags that they are.

    If a 'Top Premiership Footballer' is portraying their image as a caring family man, whilst at the same time having carried on an illicit affair who exactly is being protected? The wife most certainly knows about it by now, so the only damage is to his image and reputation, and let's face it, he should have thought about that before he got his knob out. Using the legal system as a shield for his indiscretion is making a mockery of the whole process.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easy fix

    They could stop dishing out super injunctions, and while they're at it clip the wings of a few more of the myriad other laws only accessible to the obscenely wealthy.

  25. Is it me?
    Stop

    Hang-on

    The footballer wants access to other people's emails to see if they have been talking about him.

    Lets hope he doesn't get it because that would give him more rights than the Police have, and no duty not to reveal what he finds. Would you want a professional footballer or indeed any celebrity given the right to trawl your eMail, just in case.

    Think granting that kind of injunction would be a breach of the journalist's human rights, not to mention the human rights of the people sending him email, and the people mentioned in the email.

  26. JaitcH
    Unhappy

    Messrs. Neuberger & Lord, Senior British Beaks, have demonstrated just ...

    how much they are out of touch with reality - the InterNet prevails and no matter how much sabre rattling these two old farts do, their jurisdiction ends at Penzance and/or Hadians Wall.

    Then Neuberger further illustrates his stupidity by implying that newspapers reporting disclosure of 'superinjunctions' in Parliament would be potentially liable for contempt. What Neuberger misses is that newspapers have a duty to report to the electorate the activities in Parliament, except for a very few exclusions. He also forgets that he, Neuberger, is subservient to Parliament inasmuch as they write the legislation he administers.

    As far as their fellow idiot who named Twitter, he too seems to realise the limitations of his proclamations as was reported by today's Guardian who named the Scottish Herald as being the newspaper who showed a slightly modified picture of the football player who was sleeping with Imogene Thomas.

    Pretty sad state of affairs when the judges are clueless about the real world.

  27. Richard Jones 1

    Protection of Interests? Or about to be Stuck Pigs - squealing?

    It used to be said that the USA had the best police that money could buy and we had the best legal industry that money could buy. For all I know the Americans have cleaned their police up. However clearly the purchase of legal 'services' is running rampant and very profitably for some in the UK. I doubt that those coining it in are pleased to see a risk to their profit margins. Whether it is releasing terrorists, obviously contrary to the human rights of the vast majority of the population or selling privacy to those whose claim to it is at best tenuous. Given that these legal squealers gross upwards of £ 450 per hour and some a good deal more, who is surprised that these fat pigs are now squealing?.

    On a different but closely related theme. At all costs avoid allowing any of your or your family interests to fall into the Court of Abuse, trading name 'the Court of Protection', which busily protects its own income streams to the cost of those with real issues.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    ROT13

    .

    Elna Tvttf

    .

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