Friday, March 11, 2011


Thanks to John Herring MP (LibDem) for using parliamentary privilege to reveal yet another superinjuction that's been called into existence. Superinjunctions - boo, hiss! But why do we have them?

Let's take a simple facet of our current law system to do with rape. The victim's identity is protected; the alleged perpetrator's is not. A newspaper called Sleazy Tabloid heads up the story "[Name] the Rapist" which all the other sleazy tabloids jump on. Note that at this point guilt or innocence has yet to be established; but that due to this press coverage this person is going to be known with the suffix "the Rapist" for the rest of their lives.

So they take out an injunction to stop this from happening. The result - the newspapers report that they can't use "the Rapist" prefix because they've been forced not to; no doubt with a healthy dose of freedom of speech rhetoric tagged on.

Sadly human nature being what it is when you try to stop someone from saying something the assumption is that it's true; after all if it wasn't why go to all the hassle of trying to stop it eh? On another note if it wasn't true why don't they sue the newspapers for libel eh?

[For another example someone who's taken out an injunction against a violent partner may not want it reported in all the newspapers as a breach of their privacy]

So baring a change in human nature; or a real shake-up of our libel/slander laws and proceedings in comes a superinjunction. Now not only can you use "the Rapist" suffix; but you can't insinuate that it's deserved because I tried to stop it.

All fine and logical. Except as we all know when such fine and logical systems come into place someone's bound to wrap it around a different concept. That's what seems to be happening and it's the fault of those judges who allow them. In theory a superinjunction of these types should only be created when they can't be settled in a libel/slander case. In the instance of my example one could be created because an existing court case is being heard with regard to its validity. However once the verdict is in the injunction breaks - if they're guilty if can be used; if they're innocent it's libel/slander to continue.

So is Sir Fred Goodwin in court to prove he's not a banker; is he suing the papers who call him such - no. Nevertheless he managed to get an injunction out to stop anyone calling him such. Of course you can appeal against it, but one has to wonder how it was granted in the first place.