Number of actual superinjunctions? Two.

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.

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