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The Right to Privacy: The Rise of the Super-injunction

The Right to Privacy: The Rise of the Super-injunction

In recent weeks, super-injunctions have been making headlines in the British media. Used to prohibit the reporting of sensitive information in the press, and therefore the public, they have more recently been used to protect the identities of individuals involved in often scandalous stories.

Arguably, the super-injunction that captured most headlines was that involving celebrity Imogen Thomas. Thomas entered the public eye after appearing on the seventh series of reality-tv programme Big Brother. In April 2011, it was reported in the media that she had a six-month relationship with a married Premier League footballer. However, the identity of the footballer remains a secret after he was awarded a super-injunction.

This created a media frenzy with newspapers and television shows all reporting on the story. Thomas has spoken candidly about her experience and has denied any allegations that she attempted to blackmail the unnamed footballer. Whilst these stories are often seen as tabloid sensation, the rise of the super-injunction poses many questions for the media, people, the law and especially solicitors in London.

BBC reporter and journalist Andrew Marr recently revealed that he won a High Court order in 2008 to prevent the press from reporting on his affair with another newspaper reporter. Marr defended his actions on the basis that the story was private, there was no public interest and the subsequent media storm would have caused too much stress to his family.

In some sense then, a super-injunction can be seen as a good thing. 21st century media and tabloid journalism has increasingly become focused on the private lives of celebrities and gossip. Affairs and scandals often become tabloid sensations and end up in the press for weeks or months. Marr’s super-injunction surely, at the time, protected his wife and children’s privacy.

Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye has spoken openly about his feelings on Marr’s super-injunction including Marr's hypocrisy. Indeed, the right to know about people’s private lives has been subject to much debate in recent years. Do the public have a right to know what people do in their private lives?

Many people are divided over this point. Some people believe that those in the public eye are inherently opening up their private lives to the public. As soon as people welcome the media, they lose all right to privacy. Additionally, if they present their character in one way and make their living from this public perception, the public have a right to know if their private lives are contradictory. This is particularly true for politicians.

However, others believe that someone’s private life should not be reported, as what they do behind closed doors is private and was never intended to be exposed to the public.

There are clearly positives and negatives to using super-injunctions. However, ultimately this issue is far bigger than the gossip stories the media enjoy reporting. It raises questions on privacy laws in general. For London solicitors especially, it is very important to monitor the ongoing usage of super-injunctions and what this means for freedom of speech. Perhaps a growing number of legal cases will involve super-injunctions in much wider legal areas.

Additionally, the recent government cuts to legal aid mean that legal support will increasingly be available only to those who can afford it. Appealing for a super-injunction is a costly process and far out of reach for many people. Is legal support and representation becoming a luxury few people can afford? For many lawyers, solicitors and London law firms, this is a worrying development and may mean that many people simply do not get a chance to voice their arguments.

For more information on legal support and advice, please visit the IBB Solicitors' website on how they can help with your legal issues.