I’ve spent the past couple of days digesting the Report of the Committee on Super-Injunctions. It’s worth reading. Bloggers more qualified than I to comment have already analysed it, and I don’t have anything to add in terms of that.
It’s worthwhile pointing out that I, as well as many others, completely over-estimated the likely number of super-injunctions in existence. The likely number of them is in the low single figures — the committee could identify only two. Which turns the debate for me: it’s clearer than ever that this is not about justice being done in secret: it’s about the newspapers not being able to print what they want, when they want. And, unfortunately, that is combined with a significant number of the general public’s schadenfreude.
It is good, though to see the report working towards the capture of statistics on the numbers and types of anonymised injunctions granted, and proposing a uniform standard and procedure, thus making sure the law is applied consistently before their grant in future. These are useful and necessary steps.
I’m worried, though, about one thing. The report suggests that not just super-injunctions, but also anonymity orders, should be seen to be the exception in future. I cannot see how that can be achieved, whilst maintaining a proper balance between the rights of the applicant (any anyone else associated with them — a point often overlooked) and the rights of the newspaper.
This whole situation has come about because the newspapers have, and continue to show no compunction in publishing first and worrying about the consequences later (Chris Jeffries, anyone?) They have now forced a debate as a result of which, rightly or wrongly, what restraints there are against their behaviour have been loosened.
So how can the newspapers be forced to respect the rights of others when they refuse to do so voluntarily? There will be further legal development, no doubt. But further legal development by individuals will only create a different sort of shield, what what appears to me to be needed is a stick. A bloody big and heavy one. Nothing else seems to be working.