Sunday Herald splash could 'kill super-injunctions off entirely'

The Sunday Herald's decision to partially identify a footballer alleged to have taken out a media injunction could spell the end for injunctions in their current form, senior PROs argue.

Twitter: used to break injunctions
Twitter: used to break injunctions

The Scottish newspaper opted to print the picture of a footballer alleged to have an injunction in place to limit reporting of his private life with only a thin black strip covering his eyes as its front page.

Head of corporate at Lexis, James Thellusson, said ‘I think this will kill super-injunctions off entirely in their current form. We need a clearer legal framework. It’s time for Parliament to legislate because the law as it stands appears unworkable and lacks public support.’

Across the weekend, more than 30,000 people potentially broke the injunction again by tweeting about the story, including posting pictures of the front page of the Herald.

News also emerged over the weekend that a journalist has been referred to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, for reportedly breaching a privacy injunction with a tweet about another footballer.

Keith Ashby, representative for the Press Complaints Commission and lawyer for Sheridans, explained that Twitter has taken media law into a grey area.

He explained: ‘The laws which protect individuals’ rights, for example misuse of confidential information and defamation, apply to social networking sites as much as to the print media. However, the difficulty with Twitter is a jurisdictional one and the limited "reach" of the English courts. The US is fiercely protective of the First Amendment right and Twitter is unlikely to be too concerned about any proceedings brought against it in this country. The PR danger of persuing such proceedings for the footballer concerned is that they will simply draw even greater attention to the matter.’

The media are now in a position where the identity of a celebrity with an injunction may be common knowledge, but they are still prevented from identifying them.

EdenCancan MD Nick Fulford said: ‘If he was a client of mine, then I would pose the questions in the age of the internet where keeping a secret is almost impossible. What’s better? To allow this sort of continual witch hunt or to take the negative publicity in one hit? It proves the days of super-injunctions is over. The days of keeping quiet and it’ll all blow over don’t happen anymore because of the internet.’

Thellusson added: ‘The internet has made a mockery of legal jurisdictions as it has exploded the traditional national boundaries for PR so we have to find a new way of working. Either way, Twitter is not dependent on these issues for its long-term survival. This incident just underlines its appeal to consumers.’

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