The press has recently returned to the theme of evils of the privacy injunction protecting the unsavoury behaviour of the rich and famous. Last week’s round up drew attention to articles in the “Daily Mail” and “The Times”. The former had a second piece “Revealed: 30 ‘superinjunction’ gagging orders won by rich and famous in just two years“. This is obviously an area of important public debate. Unfortunately there remains a lack of data to inform the discussion.
It appears that the number of “publication relevant” anonymised hearings is small and that there are very few privacy injunctions against the media directly. Consideration of the public judgments suggests that the injunctions that are taken out are often against blackmailers and that it is rarely contended that there is a public interest in the publication of the information.
As a contribution to the debate we have, using public documents and with the assistance of Mr Benjamin Pell and of the clerks to the Jury List judges set out to provide a list of all the anonymised hearings before High Court “media judges” in the first three months of 2011. It seems likely that all or almost all of these hearings will have related to injunctions and will, in part, cover the prevention of publication of information – although those against individuals may also cover matters such as harassment.
There appear to have been 11 such cases in the first 3 months of 2011, seven of which resulted in “public” (although not always “published”) judgments and two in which judgment is awaited. There only appear to be two injunctions granted against media defendants. None of these injunctions are “super” in nature – in all cases the existence of the injunction can be reported. The “newspaper” cases were, in reverse chronological order, as follows:
ETK v News Group Newspapers, an injunction granted by the Court of Appeal after a hearing on 10 March 2011, the judgment is awaited.
MNB v News Group Newspapers  EWHC 528 (QB), injunction granted by Henriques J on 1 March 2011. Newspaper defendant agreed to its continuation. Publication interest justification for publication abandoned. Sharp J made further orders.
There were eight hearings involving individual defendants – some of whom had threatened to provide information to the media. As far as we are aware, none of the orders made were challenged by media organisations on public interest or other grounds. These were, again in reverse chronological order, as follows:
CBL v Person Unknown or Persons Unknown, (29 March 2011), Sharp J. We have no information about this injunction.
Goldsmith v BCD  EWHC 674 (QB), (22 March 2011) Tugendhat J. This was a renewal of a 2008 injunction against an individual. It was not suggested that there was any media interest in publishing the information or public interest.
RJA v AJR, (4 March 2011), King J; (18 March 2011), Sharp J and (22 March 2011), Sharp J. We believe that an ex tempore public judgment was given in this case.
YYG v PJK¸(11 March 2011), Sharp J. We have no information about this injunction.
ZAM v CFW and another  EWHC 476 (QB), (7 March 2011), Tugendhat J. An interim injunction in a libel case, along with an anonymity order. We had a case comment and a further post about the media coverage.
Hirschfeld v McGrath (4 February 2011), Teare J,  EWHC 249 (QB), Tugendhat J. An injunction to restrain the publication of intimate information concerning the relationship between the parties when they were married. There was no media interest and no assertion of public interest.
YYZ v YVR  EWHC 274 (QB), (4 February 2011), Eady J. Extended an injunction granted originally by Supperstone J on 27 January and continued by Eady J on 28 January. The injunction prevents the defendant revealing the content of an email sent mistakenly to the defendant by the claimant. The judge found that “it could not conceivably be argued, for example, that any genuine public interest attached to the content of the claimant’s email.“
OPQ v BJM  EWHC 160 (QB), (2 February 2011), Eady J. An injunction apparently granted to restrain the publication of information by a private individual (see the Daily Telegraph). Mr Justice Eady described it as a “straightforward and blatant blackmail case“. The evidence shows that negotiations were attempted with a newspaper group to sell intimate photographs and/or other information obtained in circumstances which were self-evidently private. The judgment says that:
“A large sum of money was apparently being discussed with Associated Newspapers, but an agent acting on behalf of BJM made contact with the claimant’s solicitor last Saturday evening and said that she, the first defendant, would rather do a deal with him. It was thought that the claimant might prefer to pay some money at that stage to make the problem go away for good.”
Eady J received a letter from solicitors for Associated Newspapers saying that he should reveal more about the claimant’s identity but the judge did not deem it appropriate. Citing JIH v News Group Newspapers Ltd  EWCA Civ 42 at , he said: “It is necessary to take steps sometimes, and this is such a case, to minimise the risk of jigsaw identification rather than encourage it.“ There was a further hearing in this case on 6 April 2011. Judgment was reserved.
POI v A person known as ‘Lina’  EWHC 25 (QB) Tugendhat J (13 January 2011) and  EWHC 234 (QB), Supperstone J (26 January 2011) – An injunction to restrain the publication of photographs by blackmailer where no public interest in publication was asserted and there was no media intervention.
The director of editorial legal services at Guardian News & Media, Gillian Phillips, has received three anonymised privacy injunctions between 1 January and 31 March 2011 but no “super” injunctions. In addition, there were a number of court reporting restrictions in children and criminal cases and an order from the Court of Appeal in an immigration case that prevents the newspaper naming the individual concerned.
The Guardian’s former Readers’ editor, freelance lawyer and writer Siobhain Butterworth, has recently written about the structure of privacy and libel injunctions here. She argued:
“The case of ZAM v CFW, described last week as a “superinjunction” (it isn’t), is another example of privacy and libel actions apparently resembling each other … ZAM is [a] libel case that looks a bit like a privacy case because an injunction was granted to prevent publication. It included an order for anonymity, which is another feature of privacy cases“.
There were more privacy injunctions hearings in the first week of April. More details will be reported when and if we obtain them. Lord Neuberger’s committee on super injunctions, as mentioned in this week’s Inforrm round up, is due to report by the end of April. It is hoped that one of its recommendations will cover the better public availability of information about private hearings.
This article was researched with the assistance of Judith Townend, a freelance journalist and PhD research student at the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, City University London. She blogs at http://meejalaw.com and is @jtownend on Twitter.