Recent cases have shown a marked willingness by the courts to grant gagging orders or so-called ‘super injunctions’ to protect the privacy of celebrities.
The media has reported that the High Court recently granted a permanent injunction against the whole world to prevent details of a married celebrity’s affair from being revealed and a separate injunction to prevent disclosure of a married Premier League footballer’s affair. This decision follows a series of similar cases involving celebrities and public figures who have obtained injunctions to protect their privacy.
One of the people who had obtained one of these super injunctions has since waived his anonymity.
The injunctions have been criticised by several commentators who do not think that the law should operate in this way, to offer the benefits of privacy to those who can afford to bring expensive court cases but not to less wealthy individuals who cannot.
At present there is no law of privacy in the UK but the Prime Minister has expressed concerns that judgments such as these recent High Court decisions are creating a law of privacy by the back door. Instead Mr Cameron has said any privacy law should be left to Parliament to create through balanced legislation that is applicable and available to all.
The Master of the Rolls is currently conducting an investigation on the use of super injunctions and will report his findings in the next month. It will then be open to the Government to decide whether to change the law in this area.
Due to the secrecy surrounding these cases it is hard to comment on any particular example, but there is a public interest issue at the heart of the whole privacy law debate. There is a strong argument that this should be argued openly in Parliament. It also highlights the issues of access to justice generally and the wider debate about the claims in the media about court cases being a preserve of the better off in society.