“Free speech drowning”? – Supreme Court decision to reinstate PJS injunction, a news Round Up

20 05 2016

Sun Front PageThe decision of the Supreme Court to reinstate the injunction in the case of PJS v News Group Newspapers ([2016] UKSC 26) has, unsurprisingly, attracted widespread comment, both in press and on social media. We had a summary of the case and a post by Ashley Hurst.

There was considerable discussion of the case across the media, with the full range of “experts” being wheeled out to comment . Tory MP Philip Davies and ex-MP John Hemming – though lacking any obvious expertise in privacy law – featured prominently. However, as usual, prolific “commentator for all seasons” Mark Stephens was ahead of the pack – featuring in the Guardian, The Independent, the Mail and the Times.

The Sun was obviously unhappy about the decision.  Its front page (pictured) has “Outrage at Gagging Verdict” (not mentioning whose outrage, although we can guess) with the slightly obscure front page headline “The day free speech drowned in a paddling pool of olive oil” – which, a sub-heading tells us was “… Aided by Celeb and 3-way romp loving partner” and “… Abetted by four old duffer judges ignoring internet“.

Sun EditorialThe Sun uses its editorial to attack the judges who found against it under the headline “Court’s snobs reign Supreme“.  The Judges are described, inter alia, as “illogical and idiotic old duffers” who have “sneered at tabloid readers”.

The Sun also had an online story entitled  “Celeb threesome couple STILL can’t be named as Supreme Court upholds draconian gagging order” – along with a picture of Lord Mance and a man with a pixellated face.  It said that “Experts have said that the case has now probably cost those involved £1 million” – although not pointing out to its readers that, as the losing party, it is going to pay a substantial proportion of those costs.

The following pieces give reasonably accurate accounts of the decision and its background

The MailOnline, in contrast, made no pretence of separating fact and comment with a piece entitled “Injunction farce deepens as German and Spanish media name married celebrity who had threesome in their reports on how he CAN’T be identified over here“.

The Mirror took a similar view in a piece entitled Celebrity threesome injunction ruling branded ‘perverse’ as couple remain nameless – the “branding” being done by Tory MP Philip Davies (not normally a person whose opinion is relied on by the Mirror).

The same newspaper told readers that  Celebrity threesome injunction ruling will lead to more gagging order applications from ‘rich and famous’, legal specialist predicts. Unusually the “legal specialist” was not, on this occasion, Mark Stephens, but a newcomer to the “privacy commentator game”, Georgie Collins, head of IP and Media at Irwin Mitchell.

The_Daily_Telegraph_20_5_2016The Daily Telegraph front page has a headline with a familiar retro feel “Judges Create UK Privacy Law” – this is the “privacy law” which the press has been complaining about for more than a decade.

In the Times [£], the tireless Mark Stephens is quoted as saying that “This ruling drives a wooden stake through the heart of ‘kiss and tell’ stories”

Joshua Rozenberg had a piece in the Guardian, “The celebrity threesome case risks undermining the law“, making the surprising suggestion that the lone dissenter, Lord Toulson, was more convincing than his four colleagues.

Former Sunday Mirror editor Paul Connew also, unsurprisingly, agreed with Lord Toulson in a Drum piece entitled “Celebrity privacy injunctions may not be dead but law looks a dodo all the same“.

A range of opinions were expressed on the blogs, for example:

There was widespread comment across Twitter, #pjs and . Media law specialist Professor Gavin Phillipson tweeted support for the judgment


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