The Scottish newspaper which last year famously unmasked a footballer behind a gagging order on the Press – because it only applied in England and the player's identity was widely known on the internet – has condemned recommendations by a Westminster committee to have such 'super injunctions' operate automatically both sides of the Scotland-England border.
The Sunday Herald today reports a series of recommendations made earlier in the week by the joint committee on privacy and injunctions.
And in its leader column, the paper not only describes the committee report as “a combination of naivety and ignorance”, it goes on to say: “The reason the Sunday Herald could name [footballer, Ryan] Giggs was because his lawyers had not sought a gagging order in a Scottish court. That course of action was open to them, but they chose not to take it.
“Releasing celebrities' lawyers from that obligation might make it easier and cheaper for their clients but it tramples Scotland's legal independence underfoot and threatens yet further restrictions on the public's right to know.”
Last year, the Sunday Herald partly took the decision to identify Giggs as the name behind a super injunction – which is, in simple terms, a ban on reporting that a ban has been granted on reporting – because his name was being widely identified online.
And it was able to do so in print by ensuring no copies of the paper were available in England, because that was where the super injunction only applied.
Says the paper: “In its report, published last week, the committee called for the law to apply equally to 'print, broadcast and online'. They also called for companies such as Google to make sure that no material that breached court orders should be produced by online search engines.
“But perhaps their most controversial recommendation was in response to our revelations about Giggs. 'We recommend that interim injunctions in the United Kingdom are enforceable in the other two jurisdications in the same way as final injunctions are,' the report stated.”
And First Minister, Alex Salmond is quoted, as saying: “Until we are independent it is vital that there is no more erosion of our legal autonomy – and this attempt to make so-called super injunctions granted by an English court enforceable in Scotland would do just that.”
The paper also quotes the chair of the MPs' committee, John Whittingdale MP, as saying: “Plainly [the current system has] a loophole. If the courts do determine that a right to privacy could be breached, then its not ideal if all you need to do to find out the details is buy the Sunday Herald. That negates the purpose of the interim injunction.”
On Friday, John McLellan, The Scotsman editor, was arguing the recommendations represented a 'powerful shot' across the bows of the Press.