The twenty six member Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions held an evidence session on 17 October 2011. The witnesses were Jack Straw MP, Lord Wakeham, Sir Stephen Sedley, and Professor Gavin Phillipson. The uncorrected transcript of their evidence is now available and the Session can also be seen on Parliament TV. A number of interesting points emerged in the course of the session.
Mr Jack Straw MP – who with Lord Irvine had been co-sponsor of the Human Rights Bill – said that what they were trying to do by means of what became section 12 of the Act was to “raise the bar in terms of interlocutory relief”. He expressed the view that, on that point, it had been successful. Later in his evidence he said that the PCC had proved inadequate to its task and that, as result, he would
“seek to codify the the current law on privacy that the courts have developed into a tort of infringement of privacy. I think that in a sense we owe it to the courts; it is no good blaming the courts for the fact that they have done that, because we passed the parcel to them quite explicitly. Everybody had their eyes open”
Sir Stephen Sedley was less convinced on point of having a statutory law of privacy – mentioning his own experience in trying draft an Australian state privacy law, “What started as a simple two-line formula reached two and a half pages of definition of unbelievable tortuousness by the time I bailed out of it”. He later added that, on the question of the “height of the bar” in injunction cases, the Report of the Committee on Super-Injunctions “seems … to lay this issue pretty much to rest”.
Mr Straw commented, in passing, on the conduct of Mr Hemming MP and Lord Stoneham in naming those covered by anonymity orders, saying that he thought it was “outrageous” and that the Speakers of both House should have intervened. Lord Wakeham indicated that he “absolutely depracated what went on”.
The Committee also dealt with a number of issues relating to the PCC – and Lord Wakeham, a former chairman, offered a paper setting out his proposals for the future.
On Monday 24 October 2011 the Committee will have two sessions. First, at 2.40pm, presumably intended to represent “defendant interests”, David Price QC, Gavin Millar QC, Keith Mathieson, and Gillian Phillips. Secondly, at 3.40pm what appears to be a “claimants’ group” of Hugh Tomlinson QC, Gideon Benaim and Alasdair Pepper.
We have been supplied with a copy of the Response to the Joint Committee’s Call for Written Evidence provided to the Joint Committee by Hugh Tomlinson QC.