Modesty isn’t this blog’s strongest suit. But I’d be kidding myself if I thought the 1,300 page views clocked up by my April 13th post Freedom of speech extends to sordid kiss-and-tells reflected an interest by Grapefruitcrazy readers in my views on the judiciary’s attempt to gag the Press.
The post was about the flood of injunctions gifting rich men anonymity for their infidelities, in particular a world famous actor.
He sheltered under the code name NEJ – the same protection was not extended to the prostitute in question, Helen Wood.
Googling the relevant keywords brought the curious to my blog – and away again because their prurient interest wasn’t satisfied.
I had no idea who NEJ is – and even if I had I wouldn’t have risked the wrath of the Courts by revealing it.
Nosiness is infectious. Realising gossip addicts on the internet were in pursuit of NEJ, I needed to know who he was too. It didn’t take long to come up with a name so uninteresting it’s probably right.
The lessons of the whole tawdry episode don’t reflect well on anyone. There is the actor having cheated on his wife finding months later he’s in a fight to save his marriage and reputation. And there’s a young woman giving the world’s oldest profession an even worse name. Shouldn’t confidentiality come with your hour’s worth?
Then there’s The Sun scraping the barrel in pursuit of sales, because, alas, it knows the public has an insatiable appetite for details about the misdemeanours of the rich and famous.
The most important conclusion to draw from the NEJ court case is that injunctions of whatever intensity don’t do the job for which they’re intended.
Overseas gossip websites are beyond the reach of the British courts. Even if this were not the case, no one would move against them for fear of giving substance to any particular allegation. This must work the same way for home based sites.
But injunctions were rarely watertight long before the advent of the internet. Too many people are always in the know. It would take months, however, before the same name was whispered frequently enough to be presumed to be the ‘guilty’ party. The internet has provided a means of instant dissemination – and the whispering process is narrowed down to a matter of days.
The injunction has passed its sell-by date. We need Parliament to frame privacy legislation whose breach would be a criminal offence. Until then anti-Press judges will be free to make up the law for themselves.