UK courts leads the way for the rich to protect their private lives

[Tom Hendrics, Law & Courts Contributor]

UK courts are taking to applying privacy laws  for the benefit of those who can afford to claim them, like ducks to water. Under UK common law rules, decisions  of courts that have interpreted human rights laws can be and are  being applied outside laws passed by the country’s Parliament.  What this means is that now in recent times, the courts can and are preventing information from being published about private citizens even though the information is true and does not comprise state secrets, or state security.

Those rushing out to take out the so-called ‘super-injunctions’ include sports and TV celebrities who mostly seek to hide sordid details of their sex lives. Those celebrities and the rich who rely on having ‘super clean’ images, are rushing out to get the ‘gagging’ orders from UK courts to stop the publishing of details of  their private lives. The trend is good business for legal experts who charge more than £700 an hour for their services.  However, whilst the usual argument  for the ‘gags’ is that the disclosure of the details would breach the privacy of those seeking them, this has been criticized by those affected by the gags who are saying that it is all about the gag seeker’s ability to close high-value business deals that rely on them having squeaky-clean’ images and as such the British courts are being used and abused in that way.

[Photo source for Sir Fred and MP Hemming – MailOnline]

In a recent and related development, MailOnline reports that Sir Fred Goodwin, the bandit banker who took the Royal Bank of Scotland for all it had and beyond, recently obtained a British High Court ‘super’ injunction to stop anyone calling him a banker. Specifically, the order bans anyone to mention the specified things in it that the disreputable former banking chief wants to keep secret. However, the existence of the ‘gag’ was made public this week by a British MPs use of parliamentary privilege as the ‘super-injunctions’ cannot apply to Parliament as this would constitute interference with the right to free speech by its members.

The MP, John Hemming said that the injunction stopped people from identifying the banker and as such was an abuse of freedom of speech. He said, during a debate in the House of Commons: ‘In a secret hearing, Fred Goodwin has obtained a super-injunction preventing him being identified as a banker… will the Government have a debate or a statement on the issue of freedom of speech and whether there is one law for the rich, such as Fred Goodwin, and another law for the poor? The Leader of the House of Commons commented that the matter would be raised with the government.

Prior to the MPs statement, it was not permitted for anyone to name Sir Fred – whose nickname ‘Fred the Shed’ was gained for merciless cost-cutting whilst he was the bank’s chief – by the terms of the gagging order given by Mr Justice Henriques.

‘Fred the Shred’ has been pushed into resigning his post as CEO of RBS in 2008 as the then world’s largest bank went to into an acute downward spiral. RBS was then ‘bailed-out’ with over £20 billion of public money by Mr. Gordon Brown’s government.  Fred left his post with a lump sum payout of £3 million and a pension of around £400,000.

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