Superinjunctions

By LBV

24 May 2011

Even if we don’t like to admit it, in the UK we love salacious gossip and scandal. The readership figures for the main red tops well-known for satisfying this hunger speak volumes. Many-a-Brit leaves a newsagents every Sunday morning with a copy of the News of the World covertly wrapped inside the apparently more respectable-looking Sunday Times, only to rush home and whip out (no pun intended) the NOTW to get to the nitty-gritty.

No wonder then there’s an outcry about superinjunctions – the UK wants to know who’s doing what to who!! Those who say “I’m really not interested” may well count in the 2 million+ hits on Google/Twitter last week trying to find out just who got a superinjuction.

“Just a law for the super rich and powerful” or “they’re only for men”, or even “they kill freedom of speech”. Interesting arguments used by injunction detractors to cover their craving for details of the sort of information they’d hate others to know about themselves. Why? Because these things are PRIVATE. The law says so; and it’s right. Private matters should stay private.

Most people have done something in their life they wish they hadn’t. This might not involve cheating, unusual sexual practices, or being called a banker. If you are a person who’d be quite happy for the News of the World to run a story next Sunday on its front page about your life – with a covert picture of you and no doubt a graphic caption – then feel free to argue superinjunctions are wrong. The 0.01% who’ve never done anything wrong or told a fib is safe and should be congratulated. For the other 99.9% of the population who’d like to keep their private lives private, (whether they’ve ever done something they regret or not) perhaps it’s time to reflect that just because someone is famous or rich should not mean that we have a greater right to know about their private lives.

Sure, it’s wrong that this law is only really available to those wealthy enough to afford it – so then let’s make legal aid available for superinjunctions? It wouldn’t change anything – the truth is – you’d never see one applied for because nobody is interested in reading about Mr Average. We only want to read about the rich and famous – so they are, in the main, the only people who “need” injunctions.

What of: “Only men get them – it’s wrong”? Well, I’m not aware of any woman applying for one yet – but it will happen and they are just as entitled. If it has not happened so far due to cost they have my sympathy. But is it not a little “rich” (pun intended) that some girls who’ve slept with married men (often footballers) then criticise superinjunctions? Is the right to “kiss-and-tell” (for a lot of money) any less immoral than covering up cheating?

It’s been said that “Freedom of expression doesn’t mean being able to shout “fire” in a crowded cinema”. It also shouldn’t mean writing about the private affairs of anyone (rich or otherwise). There is a lot of public interest in such scandal – but it’s not in the public interest to know about it. Nor indeed for some on the internet to use it to circulate hurtful and untrue allegations about celebs having a superinjunction when they don’t.

So will superinjunctions get scrapped? Whether due to public outcry, the PM joining the debate, or an inability to suppress [criminal] Twitter exposés, we could then all feast on even more revelations every Sunday. The irony is sweet - it might just be that the declining newspaper industry in the UK is saved by what threatened to kill it – the internet!

Mark Manley
Brabners Chaffe
Street
 

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