Boats on water in docks.

A former judge reflects on privacy injunctions

15 June 2011. Published by Keith Mathieson, Partner

Mr Justice Eady's interview last month by Joshua Rosenberg -

Published by Index on Censorship -was featured on a recent edition of Radio Four's Today programme and has also been the subject of entries on the Inforrm and Meeja Law blogs.  An interesting essay by Stephen Sedley, the recently retired Court of Appeal judge, has now appeared in the latest issue of the London Review of Books.  The essay, entitled The Goodwin and Giggs Show, can be accessed here

As well as appearing in a number of privacy cases, including Douglas v Hello! (No 1) 2000 QB 967, Stephen Sedley has written previously on privacy for the LRB.  Students of privacy law will be entertained and enlightened by his 2006essay Towards A Right Of Privacy part of which is available here (the full version is available to LRB subscribers).

In his latest essay Sedley explains concisely and convincingly why the naming of Fred Goodwin in the House of Lords and Ryan Giggs in the Commons is a "serious breach of constitutional principle", offending the "historic compromise" whereby Parliament does not interfere with the decisions of the courts in return for the courts not impeaching or questioning proceedings in Parliament.  He implies that the Speakers of both Houses have failed in their duties by neglecting to take steps against those who named Goodwin and Giggs.

Sedley also lays into the media, not just for "exploiting" the Giggs and Goodwin cases, but for "merchandising voyeurism" and double standards.  He suggests that the tabloid press's defence of its "right" to publish details of people's private lives is bogus and dangerous:

Observers with a sense of history have noted that the tabloids' self-justification, advanced in the name of press freedom, mirrors that of the authoritarian state.  The Sun columnist Jane Moore admonishes errant public figures: 'If you don't want your private life splashed all over the papers, then behave yourselves.'  Or, as it was once put, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear - for there is only one way the state or the Sun can know whether you are behaving yourself.

On the issue of super-injunctions, Sedley suggests these were "forced on the courts by the repeated undermining of their orders" by the media, i.e. the media have only themselves to blame for super-injunctions.

See further chapter 3 and section 10.3 of The Privacy Law Handbook