It was reported on Sunday 29 August 2010 that Mr Justice Kenneth Parker – the duty vacation judge (pictured right) – had, the previous day, granted a privacy injunction to an England footballer. This appears to be the third such injunction granted during August (see our earlier post on the two previous injunctions). The story of this “third injunction” was first reported in the Sunday Telegraph and has since appeared, on similar lines, in the “Daily Mail“, the “Guardian“, the “Independent” and the “Metro”.
All these press reports repeat the mantra that this injunction gives rise to “concerns” over the use of privacy injunctions and, in the words of Sunday Telegraph “will intensify the debate over privacy laws, which has been prompted by a growing number of injunctions, often by high-profile sporting figures, against the British media“. The reports contain references to John Terry and Colin Montgomerie and even to Trafigura (which was not a privacy injunction at all).
So what was the case about? What important information was being withheld from the public as a result of this “gagging order”? The “Sunday Telegraph” tells us nothing at all about this. The “Daily Mail” goes into a little more detail
“The order banned publication of ‘private or personal photographs’ stored on a mobile telephone. The telephone was later stolen and then offered to national newspapers”.
The Metro suggests that the information covered by the injunction concerned a ‘sexual liaison, encounter or relationship’.
In other words, it appears that a footballer has been the victim of a theft which has then led to private information been offered to national newspapers – presumably for payment. It is difficult to believe that even the English press would wish to publish information of this kind in these circumstances. No one appears to be suggesting that the information reveals anything which it would be in the public interest to disclose – no evidence of “match fixing” for example.
In these circumstances, it is difficult to see what the press are complaining about. Is it seriously being argued that they should be free to publish information derived from stolen mobile phones? If not, then why does the injunction “raise concerns” at all? Does it illustrate a “threat to press freedom” or, rather, the unthinking press reaction to any kind of injunction – which is condemned without any kind of thought or analysis.
The press might like to consider the following question. Does the fact that there have been three privacy injunctions in August illustrate a growing threat to freedom of the press or does it show that, despite the best efforts of the PCC, certain newspapers continue to be in the market for private information the publication of which has no public interest justification?
I have no doubt that if a footballer wanted other people to know who he had been to bed with, there are sufficient ways and means available to him. There isn’t really a case for newspapers to publish stories against people’s will, let alone print photographs from stolen mobile phones.