It appears that the concept of “super injunction” is spreading round the United Kingdom. Last week we reported on Van Morrison’s application for such an order in Northern Ireland – this failed, although he did obtain a “privacy injunction”. This week the Scottish website “allmediascotland” reports that the “Sunday Herald” newspaper has successfully resisted an application for a “super-injunction” brought by Strathclyde University and its principal Professor James R McDonald. After a hearing last week, Court of Session judge Lord Pentland dismissed the orders sought as being “unnecessary restrictions on responsible journalism“.
The application concerned a story that a retired academic, Gavin Simpson and his wife Anne had been given formal warnings by the Procurator Fiscal after it was found that they had made allegations against Professor McDonald. The couple were charged with extortion in December 2009 last year, after threatening to make the allegations public but ultimately were given a formal warning.
The Sunday Herald had agreed a form of words for the story with the University and Professor McDonald but nevertheless found itself faced with an application for an injunction (under Scots law an “interdict”) which would have banned future publication of anything in the story or an undertaking obliging the newspaper to give it a week’s advance notice of its intention to publish such material. The claimants argued that that without such an order or undertaking there would be a “creeping erosion” of Professor McDonald’s reputation. The precise legal basis for the order applied for is difficult to discern from the brief reports, although we assume that the claim was “privacy” based.
Sunday Herald editor Richard Walker said Lord Pentland’s decision was an “important victory” for press freedom and a welcome departure from recent decisions in England, where super-injunctions were becoming more common. The story which was eventually published by the newspaper, on 3 October 2010, can be found here (although the online version does not have the story of the unsuccessful injunction application).
Blogger Jon Slattery discusses the case and it is reported by PA Media Lawyer whose editor, Mike Dodd, has confirmed the details of the story and spoken to the Sunday Herald’s solicitor advocate, Tony Jones, of the law firm BTO.