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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Are people missing the super-injunction point?

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Twitter has been causing a bit of a kerfuffle over the last week. Some mischief maker has taken it upon themselves to publish what they claim to be accurate details of the celebrities involved in the super-injunctions we have been hearing so much about.

Effectively, this is where those in the spotlight have used European law to protect their privacy, preventing newspapers from publishing stories about alleged infidelities and other details in their personal life. There has been increasing discontent in recent weeks that it is giving certain figures free rein to do what they want, with the media being powerless to expose them when it is in the public interest. We could debate all day about how much it is in the public interest to reveal the private lives of celebrities. Do you think it matters if a high-profile footballer has been having an affair with a former Big Brother contestant? On the face of it, I would argue no. But if you look into it and see that the chap concerned is a respected “family man” who thousands of young people look up to as a role model, you could argue there is a clear public interest.

Then there is the issue of accuracy/truth. How do we know the names suggested are correct? There is no proof. Two celebrities involved have already openly said they have no such injunction. I guess they would say that, but then it can be checked relatively easily I guess.

There is also the more difficult issue of social media not being constrained by the same legislation as newspapers and other media. An individual appears to be able to say what they want on Twitter or Facebook. They may libel someone, I guess, but there is little case law that I can find to give a steer on how such cases would go, largely down to the relatively recent emergence of social media channels. All the legislation was written with print publication and broadcast in mind.

There is certainly no doubt that this debate has been good for Twitter. Monday, May 9, was the busiest day ever for Twitter in Britain with nearly 10 million hits. There are more than 93,000 people following the user claiming to reveal names of five celebs hiding behind gagging orders. More generally, internet searches for “super injunction” are up 5,000 per cent in the last month.

However, most of the time what is not taken into account is the feelings of the injured parties within the family. The wife, the children. What damage will it do to them, in both the short term and long term? And this remains true even if the allegations are not correct. This is rarely reported in the tabloids, who seem more inclined to salivate at the prospect of a distraught, wronged partner leaving the family home in a suitcase, than treating those who have done nothing wrong with some sympathy.

Family break-up affects lives forever. There should be greater consideration given to this issue rather than getting hot and bothered about injunctions. If these issues were reported with more responsibility and sensitivity for the non-guilty parties involved, rather than the inevitable sensationalist skew being central to the piece in the pursuit of a few extra readers, I would have more sympathy for those journalists gagged by super-injunctions.

Andrew Woolley
Concerned family lawyer

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