Was Lib Dem MP John Hemming right to name Ryan Giggs as superinjunction footballer?

The media can now, openly and legitimately, report the name of the Premiership footballer alleged to have had an affair with a former reality show contestant. That the name ‘Ryan Giggs’ is public is down to Lib Dem MP John Hemming, who ‘outed’ the Manchester United star in the House of Commons this afternoon using Parliamentary privilege. As BBC News reports:

Addressing MPs, Mr Hemming said: “Mr Speaker, with about 75,000 people having named Ryan Giggs it is obviously impracticable to imprison them all.”

House of Commons speaker John Bercow interrupted the MP saying: “Let me just say to the honourable gentleman, I know he’s already done it, but occasions such as this are occasions for raising the issues of principle involved, not seeking to flout for whatever purpose.”

John Hemming later told the BBC why he had named Mr Giggs. “Basically when he… showed that he was going to go after relatively normal people and try and prosecute them, for gossiping about him on a matter of trivia, I think he has to be held to account for that,” he said.

Ryan Giggs was clearly very poorly advised by his lawyers to pursue Twitter and its users in the aggressive way that they did; the device backfired, and has led to the footballer being among the first public figures currently protected by a superinjunction being ‘outed’.

Yet the role of Twitter-users in this episode is questionable. There was no public interest served by News International’s typical kiss ‘n’ tell expose; the mob-handed might of tweets has simply achieved something Rupert Murdoch’s money and lawyers failed to do. Perhaps some will see that as a victory for democracy. I cannot see it as anything more than a victory for tawdry, prurient journalism of the cheapest kind (at which this country excels).

By today, anyone who wanted to know the real identity of ‘CTB’ (as Mr Giggs was known in legal circles til a few hours ago) could find the information through a quick Google search, or via Twitter. In a sense all Mr Hemming has done is make what was commonly known officially known.

Still, it is a big step to take: Parliamentary privilege exists to ensure MPs can stand up to over-mighty individuals and organisations on behalf of their constituents. It’s arguable that Mr Giggs’ lawyers curious attempt to clamp down on Twitter, and assert their client’s legal rights, qualifies for that. But it’s a grey area, and I find it hard not to regard John Hemming’s actions as, in Alistair Campbell’s words, “attention-seeking”.

Update: John Hemming has defended his reasons for naming Ryan Giggs under Parliamentary privilege on his blog here.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in News.
Advert

66 Comments

  • Martin Land 23rd May '11 - 8:09pm

    Well done, John. We’ve all known for some time (and it wasn’t difficult to guess!) and this farcical situation needs to be stopped!

  • David from Ealing 23rd May '11 - 8:32pm

    I agree with Mark.

  • David Cohen 23rd May '11 - 8:33pm

    Today I am very proud to be a Lib Dem. Well done John. John for leader!

    To those who say this wasn’t in the public interest you should note that free speech is by defintion in the interest of the public. I suggest those so called liberals who disagree read their Mill.

    Ryan Giggs went after ordinary people for telling the truth, not lies, but the truth. The message is simple – if you go after free speech, don’t be surprised if someone goes after you. He didn’t just want to protect his identity, he also wanted to pursue ordinary people on twitter through the courts.

    The price of feedom is eternal vigilance, we must not forget that. We must also not forget that free speech means the right to say things people don’t like.

  • David Cohen 23rd May '11 - 8:37pm

    Mark Johnston – it would be great if young children could not find out about their father comitting adultery but alas we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where we need to make choices and between sacrficing free speech and a free press or not upsetting two children (by the way many much poorer children find out about their parents adultery all the time, its called life) I choose free speech.

  • Hmm, I like Hemming but I have to say I’m not convinced by his justification – it seems like he’s taking on the role of a judge, which isn’t really within his remit.

    The Fred Goodwin episode was a clear case of public interest, and I fully support Ben Stoneham’s decision to ‘out’ him. But a footballer having an affair? Meh. The media, and the public, should mind their own f*ing business.

    Having said that, I agree that attempting to sue twitter users was a bit much, but Hemming should still have left it to a judge rather than using his parliamentary priviledge like this.

  • I am very happy with the outcome of this because I just don’t recognise any “right” to privacy when that is about preventing the media from reporting facts that it has (presumably) obtained in a legal way. If the allegations are false, Giggs must be free to sue; if the facts were obtained illegally, the media outlet(s) involved should have to face the consequences – but I just do not see why there should be any obstacle to a free media reporting facts.

  • David Cohen 23rd May '11 - 8:49pm

    Catherine – free speech is the publics business. I don’t care who he slept with but when he goes after free speech, when he prevents people from writing the truth, when he tries to get the names of people for writing the truth, then we have a big problem. This isn’t about sex, its about free speech and its about having a legal system which treats all equal whether they are wealthy males or not. As Voltaire said ‘I may disagree with what you say but will defend to death your right to say it’.

    I am alarmed that people are so relaxed about a threat to free speech from the wealthy and powerful. Some people are being very naive and one day we may wake up (in whoevers bed we want) and wonder where did freedom go?

  • David Cohen 23rd May '11 - 8:53pm

    By the way – forgot to add – how about coming up with a real argument against what John did rather than an ad hominem attack that he was ‘attention seeking’ . Perhaps he is a liberal who actually believes in free speech and one law for all regardless of wealth. Imagine that!!

  • I hope none of the people thinking this is a good thing had the audacity to complain about the Telegraph sting on the Lib Dem MP’s. The fact MP’s said one thing to constituents and another in public was brought into the open yet that was resoundingly derided on this site. These were people paid from the public purse acting in their capacity as MP’s. There was undoubtedly public interest.

    There is no public interest in knowing who had an affair with whom (even politicians) unless it could affect an individual’s reasoning or judgement when acting in a public or professional capacity (hence I have some sympathy with the outing of Goodwin). According to reports I read at the weekend, the reason the twitter accounts were sought is that one of the originators was a journalist who was trying to “out” the story potentially for professional / personal gain, if that was the case it would be a serious matter. Parliamentary privilege is a right that should never be abused, this sets a dangerous precedent. Parliament made the laws the judges uphold, if they don’t like them then change the laws don’t flout them. Hemming has demeaned parliament today for nothing less than self-advertisement.

    The press of this country are a disgrace, yes they will sell some papers but the children this was in place to protect could now face bullying and public humiliation, they are 7 and 5 and are entirely innocent. I don’t care about a footballer who cannot keep his trousers buttoned and I doubt whether the court did either. I do however believe in the rule of law and its role in protecting children.

    I hope Hemming has some secrets the press can find and tell the world. I hope his privacy is abused as he has decided to abuse others. After the death of Diana this country seemed to move towards an understanding that even those in the public eye deserve a private life. It appears those feelings are well and truly dead.

  • @David Cohen
    “by the way many much poorer children find out about their parents adultery all the time, its called life”

    Yes but in this case so will their school friends if they are in earshot of a radio or TV. This has the potential to follow them for some time and all for cheap copy and an MP’s ego.

  • I have great respect for John Hemming, but I don’t agree with him in this case.

    In fact, he has arguably manoeuvered himself and the Commons into a complicated constitutional situation, where the legislative is interfering with the decisions of judges. This is usually not a good idea.

    I am all for having a discussion about this in the Commons and considering whether there should be legislation to sort out this issue. But simply breaking the law (albeit under protection of paliamentary privilege) doesn’t strike me as a good way of going about this.

  • Everyone knew who it was anyway.
    As for protecting kids, they are computer-savvy these days and probably heard the news on Twitter weeks ago. They’re more likely to get their news from that than a newspaper front page.
    Thank goodness someone put an end to this farce.

  • I am amazed that you should even attempt to defend the antics of a cabal of lawyers.

    These past few days have exposed the corruption at the heart of this law, newspapers redacting copy, lawyers threatening people with the loss of liberty and people not even free to report that they have been charged, let alone convicted and sentenced should it ever come to that. Those attempting to justify these frankly idiotic laws should go and have a look at the Human Rights act and see just how many provisions of that act are being trampled.

    As John Hemming points out, when this sort of thing occurs in Burma people are rightly outraged, yet for some reason people here think we should just accept this rule by the unelected… even to the stage of the state broadcaster running news reports with the caviat that ‘Ryan Giggs is the person John Hemmkings alledges…’ as if there is some doubt about the matter.

    And the real absurdity of this situation is the court papers – which are available on line – talks about the need for this injunction because of the need to discourage blackmail. Which is more likely to discourage such things? Prosecuting a blackmailer in open court, or discussing it in a secret document?

  • @Steve Way. I’m one of the people who thinks this is a good thing, and I am happy to confirm that what bothered me about the Daily Telegraph’s sting operation was the behaviour of the Ministers involved, not the newspaper.

    As I have said above, I simply do not believe that the law should block a free media from reporting facts.

    I am sorry that his children may be teased at school, but we simply cannot say that what the media may report on should be determined by whether someone’s children might be upset as a result. That might sound cold, but pursuing the alternative route – that you can gag the press if you have some children who might be upset if you are reported on critically – would be an insane course of action.

  • @gg
    “As for protecting kids, they are computer-savvy these days and probably heard the news on Twitter weeks ago.”

    They’re 7 and 5….

  • @Steve Way
    Don’t underestimate kids. I was 6 when I learned to program a BBC Micro and that was when computers weren’t commonplace.
    Besides, what was to stop an older kid from finding out the news via Twitter and telling them?

  • @gg
    I do not underestimate them, I’ve got a 19 year old and a 7 year old…
    With BBC micros there was no internet. Parents should not let their children go un-supervised at 5 and 7.
    A judge sitting with all the information decided they should be protected. That is why we have laws.

  • Disgusting what Mr Hemming did today, and your spot on Steve with your analysis, to suggest that the footballer was going after ordinary people was utter rubbish, it was obviously a journalist who thought he could get round the court order by planting the seeds on twitter, hiding behind an anonymous name, getting everybody to gossip about it, and then getting the court to ultimately over turn it’s original injunction , when challenged, because it nolonger served it’s purpose. At the end of the day who are the winners in all this? freedom of speech! nop! but hiding behind that are the papers who’ll sell more copies tomorrow, and the girl who sells the exclusive to the highest bidder!

  • To Steve Way
    ‘There is no public interest in knowing who had an affair with whom (even politicians) unless it could affect an individual’s reasoning or judgement when acting in a public or professional capacity (hence I have some sympathy with the outing of Goodwin).’

    Not true. The public always have an interest in free speech, its for them to decide what is and isnt in their interest. We have nothing to fear from truth, read On Liberty by Mill. If we start chipping away and what people are allowed to say we will go down a slipperly slope. Frankly its not for you or anyone else to determine what the plebs should know. Its deeply elitist to suggest otherwise. I would also point out that people may not wish to buy products sponsored by an adulterer and someone who hates free speech. If people want to use the press to make cash than they have to take the rough with the smooth.

    ‘According to reports I read at the weekend, the reason the twitter accounts were sought is that one of the originators was a journalist who was trying to “out” the story potentially for professional / personal gain, if that was the case it would be a serious matter.’

    I suspect this is a rumour going around by those who have vested interests and don’t like free speech. There is no evidence whatsoever to it. If you have evidence please provide it, if not, I hope you will accept that its just a theory and no more.

    ‘ Parliamentary privilege is a right that should never be abused, this sets a dangerous precedent. Parliament made the laws the judges uphold, if they don’t like them then change the laws don’t flout them. Hemming has demeaned parliament today for nothing less than self-advertisement.’

    Hemming spoke up when no one else would. He is the best of parliament. Parliament is the last resort when all else fails and he used it today. The judges are failing to apply the law – they are giving too much focus to privacy and very little to free expression in the HRA.

    ‘The press of this country are a disgrace, yes they will sell some papers but the children this was in place to protect could now face bullying and public humiliation, they are 7 and 5 and are entirely innocent. I don’t care about a footballer who cannot keep his trousers buttoned and I doubt whether the court did either. I do however believe in the rule of law and its role in protecting children’.

    Sad but its not for the courts to try and prevent bullying, its for teachers at school. We can’t legislate against all things but must accept there is a trade off to be had. In any event whats to say that they were not bullied anyway after all it was all over twitter? Furthemore between free speech and a couple of kids getting bullied I choose free speech. Its such a valuable thing, I think some have become a little complacent with it and dont realise just how wonderful it is.

    ‘I hope Hemming has some secrets the press can find and tell the world. I hope his privacy is abused as he has decided to abuse others. After the death of Diana this country seemed to move towards an understanding that even those in the public eye deserve a private life. It appears those feelings are well and truly dead.’

    Hemming has been honest about his past indiscretions. Ryan Giggs didn’t just have ‘some secrets’ he also tried to gag anyone from talking about them. That’s the issue – not the cheating but the attempt to buy law to prevent others telling the truth. Our law should not be for sale to rich adulterers or anyone else.

  • @David Cohen

    I agree about the importance of free speech but surely that has to be balanced with every individual’s right to privacy. What we risk saying by overturning this superinjunction is that anyone – anyone – who becomes well-known for any reason has permanently lost the right to a private life. Are we really comfortable with that?

    I also agree that it’s important to have one law for everyone, but in a sense that principle is being breached in the opposite direction to the one claimed. Some people are arguing that a celebrity’s wealth gives them an unfair advantage in terms of affording the legal fees necessary to obtain an injunction. But this advantage really only counteracts the original disadvantage – namely that if they weren’t celebrities they wouldn’t have to obtain an injuction because no tabloid would be the slightest bit interested in their private life in the first place.

    Now, I accept that there are some circumstances in which someone’s private life becomes relevant to the public, e.g. Fred Goodwin’s case or perhaps an MP having an affair with an official from a hostile country or something. But are we really saying that anyone who pursues a career in a popular sport must agree to give up their privacy entirely? Or an actor? A scientist who comes up with an exciting invention? Why?

    I have to agree with Alistair Campbell on this – there’s a difference between the public interest and something the public might be interested in.

    Incidentally, I agree that Hemming’s critics should avoid adhominems – I don’t think he was being self-serving or attention-seeking, I just disagree with his decision and think he used poor judgment.

  • Paul McKeown 23rd May '11 - 10:24pm

    I don’t approve of John Hemmings actions in this particular case.

    The judge had granted the injunction for reasons that he found compelling, including, as I understand it, the possibility that Giggs had been the victim of an attempted blackmail.

    The furore over this and some other cases is that the tabloid press wishes to continue the salacious tradition of “kiss and tell”, whereby some halfwit falls into bed with a well known personage and then earns a small fortune for revealing (or inventing) the intimate details, essentially a form of pornography taken without consent.

    Personally I do believe in the principle of “privacy” concerning matters of sexual intimacy between consenting adults engaged in legally sanctioned behaviour.

    This, however, is mere tittle-tattle, unlike the Trafigura case or the Fred Goodwin case.

  • Craig – I’d be interested to see the evidence for your allegations that the person behind the tweets was a journalist. What do you know that no one else knows??? Or is this just a hunch you have?

    Why do you suggest tha free speech can’t win just because the papers may sell a few more copies? Why are the two mutually exclusive in your view? The press often anger me and I dislike many of the things they report but I will defend their right to report them. I think some risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater – just because some of us don’t like the press does not mean we should condemn them at every chance.

  • Catherine

    ‘I agree about the importance of free speech but surely that has to be balanced with every individual’s right to privacy. What we risk saying by overturning this superinjunction is that anyone – anyone – who becomes well-known for any reason has permanently lost the right to a private life. Are we really comfortable with that?’

    I think if people put themselves into public life voluntarly and make alot of money from their public image they forfeit the right to privacy.

    ‘I also agree that it’s important to have one law for everyone, but in a sense that principle is being breached in the opposite direction to the one claimed. Some people are arguing that a celebrity’s wealth gives them an unfair advantage in terms of affording the legal fees necessary to obtain an injunction. But this advantage really only counteracts the original disadvantage – namely that if they weren’t celebrities they wouldn’t have to obtain an injuction because no tabloid would be the slightest bit interested in their private life in the first place.’

    Thats not true. Tabloids do go after ordinary people all the time – making fun of some milkman or plumber who makes a fool of himself in someway, those people just have to take the embrassment. Not every story cocerns celebs.

    ‘Now, I accept that there are some circumstances in which someone’s private life becomes relevant to the public, e.g. Fred Goodwin’s case or perhaps an MP having an affair with an official from a hostile country or something. But are we really saying that anyone who pursues a career in a popular sport must agree to give up their privacy entirely? Or an actor? A scientist who comes up with an exciting invention? Why? ‘

    Because without free speech society ceases to improve, we all suffer. Also hyprocrites should be outed. We have nothing to fear from truth, new information leads to progress. I’m not saying that superinjunctions will end the Galileos of the future emerging but it does chip away at free speech and we go down a dangeorus route.

    Its not for me, you, or anyone else to determine what the masses should know. Its for them to decide when they have the chance to buy newspapers. Its deeply elitist to suggest otherwise.

  • Paul Mckeown writes ‘The judge had granted the injunction for reasons that he found compelling, including, as I understand it, the possibility that Giggs had been the victim of an attempted blackmail.’

    If he has seen evidence that there has been attempted blackmail than he is obliged to forward that to the crown prosecution service. He has not done this. I suspect there is no evidence thus why is he throwing words like blackmail around? Its a smear attempt. This judge has behaved disgracefully.

    This started out as a tittle tattle but Ryan Giggs turned it into a free speech issue the moment he tried to gag people with his wallet.

  • I would never use a sports person as a moral role model, I would have thought that came from the parent! unfortunately, in this case and the biggest shame for the footballer, is he ended up following in his own fathers footsteps, afterall his surname was Wilson until his patents divorce, when he took his mothers maiden name.
    I don’t think we should be casting judgement on him, I’m sure he’ll be feeling he’s let everybody down, especially his own kids.

  • well if were talking about beginning open and protecting freedom of speech, why don’t twitter just release the name of the person who made the original posts, then we can move on and disprove those suggestions?

  • John Hemming absolutely did the right thing. The justice system is greatly out of touch with the way technology works. We saw this with the twitter joke trial, where a guy who was essentially making a flippant and obvious joke to his small band of followers was treated as if he was calling in a bomb threat. Like it or not, treating people’s output on twitter as if it were more akin to a broadsheet publication than to a conversation in a pub will only lead to massive repression and unfair abuses of state authority. It’s already happened! Sooner or later one of these superinjunctions would have led to somebody being prosecuted for tweeting in a similar way; John Hemming nicely pre-empted this possibility in this particular case. It’s an important thing to have done.

  • 1) Does anyone have the full facts behind this case to decide whether an injunction was right or not? I very much doubt it. Possibly even the Judge doesn’t if it was an interim injunction which was granted.
    2) The other party in the court case is being represented/supported by the Sun or NOTW so I think it’s fair to say this is a battle of two equally resourced sides.
    3) I don’t think anyone is “suing twitter” as John claims. Twitter have been asked to provide information about particular people so that they could (possibly) be sued.
    4) It’s up to the DPP to decide whether to prosecute for contempt of court – not Ryan Giggs or any other premiership footballer. That would be subject to the usual test of public interest (I also think it would require proof beyond reasonable doubt that the person was aware of the injunction). The purpose was to go after journalists who knowingly originally leaked this information onto twitter.
    5) Even if John was right to do this – should MPs unilaterally decide to undo an injunction which the courts have granted? There would have to be massive public interest to support such an action IMO. If that sort of action is taken for good reasons – what is to stop another MP doing it for bad reasons?

  • What Hemming has done is an affront to and that ass makes me ashamed. That Douglas Carswell has become the little sir echo speaks volumes. I openly and loudly weep at this dumbing down of our politics.

    1) This is NOT all about the national media. Many on here miss this vital point. Local newspapers are just as interested in the man on the street as the rich and famous. If I am falsely accused of something in my local paper, it is likely to be far more damaging to me in my ordinary life than footballer. Privacy needs to protect ME, and others like me, not from the big circulation media, but from the media in general. What Hemming has done is say that privacy means nothing. He has rung the bell for open season on everyone. What is to stop a local newspaper coming to an agreement with an MP to name local people in Parliamant, creating local stories?

    2) What is a just cause for free speech – apparantly it is whatever John Hemming says it is. What is especially galling is that he is just a panto dame. There is nothing to prevent him raising these issues away from the floor of the commons. He just chooses to do it where the media will use his name.

    3) Let us consider a (totally fictional) case of a prostitute. How is it in the public interest to pay the prostitute twice for the act of selling sexual favours, once for the act and once when she sells the story to the tabloids. What is to stop someone being blackmailed for thousands of pounds before the woman in question goes to the press. These events often look very much like “honey traps”. It is perverse to characterise the press facilitating such blackmail by purchasing the prostitute’s story and publicising it as “free speech” Hemming has used incredibly poor judgment – his warped vision of free speech is a charter for blackmail

    4) David Cohen – is the below a very good parody?

    ‘Hemming spoke up when no one else would. He is the best of parliament. Parliament is the last resort when all else fails and he used it today. The judges are failing to apply the law – they are giving too much focus to privacy and very little to free expression in the HRA.’

    Too much focus to privacy? Oh my God you are a prize pilchard.

    If you had your way the Chris Jeffries or Robert Murats of this world would be at the mercy of the press pack. Or John Hemming. But then that’s just free expression isn’t it? The judges are not failing to apply the law, they are applying it in a way you and Hemming don’t like – your self-indulgence is breathtaking.. There are many areas of law where I don’t like the application, but I don’t treat democratic separation of powers and rule of law with total contempt. Utterly, utterly reckless.

    5) There are many areas of law where the rich have an advantage. Try taking on the boomer generation in an argument about BTL property. No one seems to want to take on planning law? Why is Hemming so worked up about just one area of the law – or are the housing poor not likely to vote?

    6) Hemming is not some great champion sticking it to the man – he is abusing parliamentary privilige. Let him do it where he is not protected, then he is a hero. This is no different to MPs asserting privilge to protect themself against claims about their expenses.

    I will make one final observation to David Cohen.

    ‘I think some have become a little complacent with it [free speech] and dont realise just how wonderful it is.’ I think that actually Hemming and a lot of our wonderful media have forgotten just how wonderful privacy is. Or perhaps they just don’t care?

  • ‘well if were talking about beginning open and protecting freedom of speech, why don’t twitter just release the name of the person who made the original posts, then we can move on and disprove those suggestions?’

    Its a bit like saying why don’t all men just give their DNA to the police and we can remove them from the list of rape suspects? The onus os not on twitter to provide details just because some one makes some wild accusations with no basis. People can’t go on fishing expeditions.

  • The mistake the footballer made was by going after twitter after it became increasingly apparent that the injunction wasn’t hiding his identity. He should have done an Andrew Marr at that point. He was badly advised. It should have been patently obvious that Twitter’s users wouldn’t stand for that and would start tweeting his name in an act of solidarity.

  • David Cohn

    ‘The onus os not on twitter to provide details just because some one makes some wild accusations with no basis. People can’t go on fishing expeditions.’

    You think that the accusations against twitter in this case are 100% baseless? And aren’t fishing expeditions exactly what is being encouraged by a vision of free speech that does not include injunctions?

  • Paul McKeown 23rd May '11 - 11:28pm

    I agree with Duncan.

  • Its not for me, you, or anyone else to determine what the masses should know.

    In the public sphere, yes I agree. If I dance down the street wearing an orange jumpsuit and singing ‘over the rainbow’ and someone finds that interesting or amusing they have every right to pass their description of the incident on to anyone they please. They also have the right to film me on their mobile and post it on YouTube if they want.

    I was infuriated by the treatment Google received from local residents when trying to film for their Streetview app. People virtually chased the car out of the neighbourhood chanting ‘and Englishman’s home is his castle’, while apparently ignoring the fact the Google wasn’t invading their homes but just filming a public street (and anyone with a mobile or camcorder could wander down the street and do exactly the same thing).

    BUT, in private what I do is my own business (as long as it’s within the law). It’s not for you, or the Sun, or an MP, or ‘the masses’ to decide that my private activities should become public property. The only exception to this is if there is a strong ‘public interest’ argument for breaching my privacy, e.g. if what I do in private affects a public service or taxpayers money.

    Hypothetical example – if a footballer meets a woman in a bar and they go back to his home and have sex, he has the right (AFAIK) to film the proceedings. But if he then released the video to the media / put it on the internet, he would be breaching the woman’s privacy. If he asks her if she minds releasing it and she gives her consent then fine, the tabloids and all who buy them can salivate over it as much as they like. But if she refuses consent to waive her privacy, then displaying the tape would be illegal. Is a detailed verbal description very different to this scenario?

    I agree with Paul – kiss’n’tell verges on nonconsensual porn. I don’t object to the porn part, but I object strongly to the lack of consent.

  • Duncan

    ‘1) This is NOT all about the national media. Many on here miss this vital point. Local newspapers are just as interested in the man on the street as the rich and famous. If I am falsely accused of something in my local paper, it is likely to be far more damaging to me in my ordinary life than footballer. Privacy needs to protect ME, and others like me, not from the big circulation media, but from the media in general. What Hemming has done is say that privacy means nothing. He has rung the bell for open season on everyone. What is to stop a local newspaper coming to an agreement with an MP to name local people in Parliamant, creating local stories?’

    If they go after you and it is false then there is libel law (except like super injunctions that only exists for those who can afford it). Would a superinjunction prevent you from being named and shameed in your local media? Would most people be able to afford one? Even if it would why should the law protect you from having a fact reported about you? If its false then sue them. If not, then accept you live in a society that values free speech and that means taking the rough with the smooth and accepting not everything in life can go your way. Frankly our freedom means more than your concern to hide the truth about yourself.

    Hemming has not said that privacy means nothing. Has he attacked libel law?

    ‘2) What is a just cause for free speech – apparantly it is whatever John Hemming says it is. What is especially galling is that he is just a panto dame. There is nothing to prevent him raising these issues away from the floor of the commons. He just chooses to do it where the media will use his name.’

    Ad hominem. He did it there because he surprising does not fancy going to prison and whats to have some effect. WHenever free speech is right is for each of us to decide by ourselves, its not for you or a judge or anyone else to determine. The choice is with the individual. Why do you hate freedom?

    ‘3) Let us consider a (totally fictional) case of a prostitute. How is it in the public interest to pay the prostitute twice for the act of selling sexual favours, once for the act and once when she sells the story to the tabloids’.

    She would pay tax on the second payment so HMRC would get a bit – theres your public interest. I don’t think we should start moralising to prostitues. Not everything has to be in the public interest for it to be right.

    ‘What is to stop someone being blackmailed for thousands of pounds before the woman in question goes to the press. ‘

    The police and the criminal law.

    ‘These events often look very much like “honey traps”. It is perverse to characterise the press facilitating such blackmail by purchasing the prostitute’s story and publicising it as “free speech” Hemming has used incredibly poor judgment – his warped vision of free speech is a charter for blackmail’

    Hardly. Now Ryan Giggs can’t be blackmailed after all everyone knows who he is- there is nothing to blackmail. Hemmings has actually helped him in that respect.

    ‘4) David Cohen – is the below a very good parody?

    ‘Hemming spoke up when no one else would. He is the best of parliament. Parliament is the last resort when all else fails and he used it today. The judges are failing to apply the law – they are giving too much focus to privacy and very little to free expression in the HRA.’Too much focus to privacy? Oh my God you are a prize pilchard. ‘

    Again ad hominem. At least try and be witty. When judges are gaggin people because footballers don’t like being booed when kicking a ball around and dont like it if fans makes reference to their cheating than yes, they are giving too much focus to privacy.

    ‘5) There are many areas of law where the rich have an advantage. Try taking on the boomer generation in an argument about BTL property. No one seems to want to take on planning law? Why is Hemming so worked up about just one area of the law – or are the housing poor not likely to vote?’

    So because they have advantages in many areas we should just not bother? How about we just stop taxing them as well after all we will still have people with less money? I guess being a liberal he quite likes free speech, funny that.

    ‘6) Hemming is not some great champion sticking it to the man – he is abusing parliamentary privilige. Let him do it where he is not protected, then he is a hero. This is no different to MPs asserting privilge to protect themself against claims about their expenses.’

    Absurd. Are you equating this with fiddling expenses? LOL. If he is abusing it, he has a right to abuse it just as you have a right to condemn it. Why? Because we have freedom of speech.

    ‘I will make one final observation to David Cohen.

    ‘I think some have become a little complacent with it [free speech] and dont realise just how wonderful it is.’ I think that actually Hemming and a lot of our wonderful media have forgotten just how wonderful privacy is. Or perhaps they just don’t care?’

    A society which puts privacy before freedom deserves neither. There is nothing wonderful about the rich being able to go to court to prevent people writing and talking about what is true and then if they do trying to get them sent down for 2 years.
    If privacy is so wonderful maybe Giggs should stopping doing all those adverts for all those sponsors and keep himself to himself.

  • ‘You think that the accusations against twitter in this case are 100% baseless? And aren’t fishing expeditions exactly what is being encouraged by a vision of free speech that does not include injunctions?’

    What accusations against twitter? I thought people were accusing journalists of using twitter to post names anonymously? Now you seem to be thinking twitter is behind this and not journalists?

    Until I see evidence that twitter has posted these names and not some member of the public then yes its baseless. Is there something you know about twitter that we don’t? Please tell us if you do.

    I made the point regarding fishing expeditions in response to the point that twitter should just proivide the names of those who first revelaed all the names so we can rule out it being a journalist who did this. Its not for twitter to provide the private details of people in response to any private individuals demand for details. How about I demand Lib Dem voice give me your email, after all ive got a hunch your Ryan Giggs. I’ve got no evidence but hey im going on a fishing expedition so whats the problem?

  • Catherine –

    1) Streetview is no different to estate agents taking pictures. You are correct.

    2) The problem with your hypothetical is that there are two people in the bedroom. That one does not wish to sell their ‘story’ does not per se prevent the other from doing so. Of course, we can ask if this is journalism but sadly all the evidence is that the paying public laps it up. Indeed, go a step further, one could argue that if one or both of the people in your bar are married it could be in the interest of their partners to know about the affair. But it is your earlier point about Google that holds. This is private – there can be no reasonable expectation that some hack will pay thousands and splash the story. What Hemming has done is use parliamentary privilige to talk about what happened in someone’s bedroom, and as someone said earlier there is a very real possibility that there are more facts out there not in the public eye. Outrageous.

    3) Where does this stop? Your orange jump suit has a more serious overtone. I was in London on the underground recently and some boys were using their phones to film down a woman’s top. Fair game?

  • Catherine – how are you defiining affects public service? Do footballers have an effect on the young and influence what products people buy? Should people not be allowed to make an informed judgement about the person endorsing a product before buying it? We are not in atomistic individuals, people have an effect on others. Is there not a public benefit in shaming hypocrisy? More broadly do you not think free speech itself is in the publics interest? Mill provided around 6 arguments of why free speech has benefical effects for society – look them up, they are wonderful.

    Would your position not lead to rather awful consequnces, for example, a figure, not an MP, who condemns gay people but leads a secretly gay life? Would he be entitled to a superinjunction? After all how would it be in the public interest to name him but not Giggs?

    Do you think for example John Terry should have been granted an injunction and the judge was wrong to say that he was motivated by commerical gain and not concern for his family and so rejected his application? After all what he did was in private.

    By protecting the likes of Giggs we also infringe the freedom of people like Thomas to disclose their own private life. Just because it was her private life does not mean that she should be forced to keep it in her private life, she would also have the right to turn her private life into a public story and that means naming Giggs.

  • David Cohen –

    Well – I can’t say I agree. In fact I think that you are talking total cobblers. Worse I think you just enjoy watching people who just want to keep themself to themself suffer.

    I am not going to reduce this to parody with some point for point – we have stated our positions. I’ll just leave you with this. I value privacy. My health records, my pay, my relationships, my mobile phone records, my internet connection. All these things are not fair game – you have no interest. Simple as that. That there are people who believe that they have some great moral obligation under the guise of the right to know is a step away from a witch hunt. You may be comfortable letting it all hang out. But it is not for you or John Hemming to ram it down the collective throat.

  • Duncan – if you do not wish to answer my points that if your choice, I value freedom and accept your white flag. Why do your presume to have window into peoples souls and know what their motives are? You are just talking about things which you have no idea about.

    I think you have confused the whole superinjunctions issues with the phone hacking issues. They are very different. Thats why they are reported seperately. Why have you confused them? Since when did anyone call for going after peoples medical records or phone records. Let’s not try and throw red herrings about. This is about the rich having carved out an area of law just for them to prevent people talking about the truth. Its nothing to do with health records or whatever else you think it covers.

    Its not for you to determine what people can and can not talk about. Free speech means the right to say things people don’t like and yes sometimes even things which upset children. Deal with it. Its called life.

    Is it also a witch hunt when these people throw themselves in front of fans whilst picking up millions of pounds in endorsements? You put youself out there and that means you take the rough with the smooth.

    Marx once said the vice he most hated was servility. I agree with him.

  • David Cohen – As a final, final.

    You could do worse than dwell on para 23 and 27 here

    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2011/1326.html

  • @Mark: ‘It wasn’t in the public interest’ – I would agree with that if it were a normal injunction, which we were not allowed to report but were allowed to know existed (ie if we were actually allowed to know about what the judiciary was up to). Unfortunately, because this was a superinjunction, we as members of the public would not be allowed to know what was under a superinjunction. It must at least touch the notion of democratic accountability, so Hemming was a) right to break a super-injunction but would be b) wrong to break a normal injunction.

  • Providng that link is a bit like a Muslim giving the Qu’ran to a Catholic and saying that it proves Allah exists.

  • daft ha'p'orth 24th May '11 - 12:48am

    First, this whole thing was published weeks ago in Spanish papers, so anyone who speaks Spanish and cared enough to read the newsitem will have known this for a good long time. Second, it amazes me that throughout this whole thread, nobody has mentioned the Streisand effect.

    Streisand effect: an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely

    If you want the press to go away, either take a stance and accept the consequences, or stay silent until they lose interest, but do not enrol the law as your own personal bully. There is more of the internet than there is of you, and most of it doesn’t live in England. This means that 1) you are going to lose the publication wars, and 2) you are going to lose a lot of respect on the way. Complaining about this is like complaining about the fact that pi=3.14159 and the rest. One has to find a way to live with the reality of the situation.

    @Catherine
    “If I dance down the street wearing an orange jumpsuit and singing ‘over the rainbow’ and someone finds that interesting or amusing they have every right to pass their description of the incident on to anyone they please. They also have the right to film me on their mobile and post it on YouTube if they want.”

    You should read the TOS for Youtube sometime. Then you’d realise that this you have just described an acceptable use violation.

    How does YouTube determine if content should be removed for a privacy violation?
    For content to be considered for removal, an individual must be uniquely identifiable by image, voice, full name[etc]
    What does uniquely identifiable mean?
    To be considered uniquely identifiable, there must be enough information in the video that allows others to recognize you.

    If it’s impossible to identify you in the video, then sure, I can do what I like with it, and why should you care if I did? If you’re identifiable in it, you can get the video taken down. The pubisher would probably also have civil liability, although it wouldn’t be a very good idea to sue ’em, since if it was funny enough to interest anybody, someone else would have copied the video to rutube and every other difficult-to-sue platform. By the point you’d made that much fuss, just like Giggs’ latest marital oops, it would be a matter of public interest and you wouldn’t have a hope of stopping publication. If you were a hopeless optimist and had forgotten that the world contained people who weren’t English, you might try a superinjunction, but you’d be a fool to do it, because the Streisand effect applies.

    I don’t care about football and I barely know who Ryan Giggs is, but I do know that he doesn’t want people to hear that he sleeps around. That’s the Streisand effect.

  • Some people are making it sound like Giggs was somehow abusing the system, he wasn’t he was working within the law. And as such, the lawmakers should respect that. I thought LibDems were against the idea of big brother, or does that only apply to the state not private companies such as News International.

  • @David Cohen We have nothing to fear from truth, new information leads to progress

    On that assertion I assume that both you (and Hemming perhaps) would be very much in favour of ID cards (that sentiment is one of the arguments that I heard about ID cards loud and often) – after all it would be just the truth that is being recorded(?) , what harm is there in that? – it’s just progress etc etc etc – if you are in favour of ID cards that’s fair enough as I respect your consistency of thought, freedom of information trumps all – if you are not in favour of ID cards then I regard your argument as naive at one extreme and hypocritical at the other.

  • Its a bit like saying why don’t all men just give their DNA to the police and we can remove them from the list of rape suspects? The onus os not on twitter to provide details just because some one makes some wild accusations with no basis. People can’t go on fishing expeditions.

    What a silly unlike for like comparison; why is it okay for the celebrity to be forced to reveal his/her identity and yet the accuser hides behind a bogus name on twitter. If you make ‘allegations’, you, or the platform your writing on should have to provide details of your true identity, if requested by the accused, otherwise we could all go around making silly allegations with no consequence for our actions.

  • Well, by the time John Hemming named the footballer everyone knew who it was anyway. So what difference did it make?

    And who actually care’s who some footballer is having an affair with, apart from the wife???

  • Peebee – that argument is not mine, its actually Mill’s. There was a time when liberal knew who he was and what he stood for.

    I oppose ID cards because I don’t trust the state and they would be coercive. They, the state, has a monopoly. The media (inc social media) , despite Murdoch’s best efforts, does not. Thus we can get debate and argument flowing with each competing to get to the ‘truth’. There is no such mechanism in place with a monopoly such as the state and ID cards. Thus your argument falls.

    Also I did not use the phrase freedom of information, I used the phrase freedom of speech. I suggest that the fact that you felt it neccessary to use the phrase freedom of information and not speech shows that you also agree with me that there is a difference between the two otherwise you would have surely used speech. Thus by your own admission recognise your argument does not add up.

  • So OK, a rational case can be made either for or against what Hemming did. However, one can’t help felling that the rational case wasn’t what motivated the guy. He just wanted the publicity, end of story.

    It’s all part of a trend which is turning the Lib Dems into worthy successors to the hallowed tradition of Screaming Lord Sutch and the Official Monster Party. All we need now is Lembit for Leader!

  • A couple of hypotheticals…

    … some Tory MP decides s/he should be permited to reveal Robert Thompson’s new identity “under parliamentary priviledge”. Okay with that?

    … some bunch of misogynistic and border-line racist journalists think they should reveal the identity of an African rape-victim who has dared make a complaint against their alpha-male member of the monied elite, and start discussing her breasts and buttocks (see here for the very ugly racist pedigree in that). Then, for the pièce de résistance – oh, whoopsie, I’ve just indicated their nationality – they print photographs of her teenage daughter.

    Fine with that, are youse?

    ~alec

  • daft ha'p'orth 25th May '11 - 10:34pm

    @Alec Macph
    Last article I saw on this was tagged ‘big tits’. So: equating the morning-after-repeatedly-getting-his-end-away plight of a randy footballer with an African rape victim? And putting a Big Brother contestant in the place of an alpha-male member of the moneyed elite? Whose misandrist friends start discussing the victim’s meat and two veg? Hey, have you heard of a ‘slippery slope fallacy’? I wonder what that might be, or if it might apply here? No, seriously, you should write for the Daily Mash, this is some hilarious satire.

    One of the factors limiting human misbehaviour is the existence of freedom of speech and of a free press. If our culture insists on elevating the distinctly underwhelming into positions of money and power, then it also requires a negative feedback mechanism. Sure there are cases where the press needs to be gagged, and for good reason; it can save lives, keep victims and released prisoners safe from revenge, preserve the reputation and safety of innocents involved through no fault of their own, and much more. But such tactics should be used sparingly, not least because they don’t tend to work unless the decision is one that attracts some level of consensus (it’s not solely the law that makes injunctions work) – and once they’ve been broken there’s not much point in persisting if the stakes are this low. You know – what they call a ‘case-by-case basis’.

    Here’s an entirely fictional counter-analogy. Some MP’s ex-wife decides to go for revenge. She tells him that she is going to the press with, say, a story about an alleged speeding offence. If this is published, it will cost him a great deal of embarrassment, distress, and possibly his job – as well as a significant proportion of his future earnings. So he goes to court and requests an injunction, alleging that her publication of this story is defamatory, harmful and a violation of privacy. Does he deserve an injunction? If not, why not? Discuss.

  • “It’s arguable that Mr Giggs’ lawyers curious attempt to clamp down on Twitter, and assert their client’s legal rights, qualifies for that.”

    I am afraid you are missing the point. John Hemming exposed an establishment conspiracy to pretend there was a continuing genuine attempt to protect Ryan Giggs’ privacy . His privacy from the general public had long since disappeared. Whether any journalist had played some (criminal?) part in that process ‘is another matter. There is no obvious evidence that the intention behind this injunction was anything other than Giggs’ last ditch attempt to keep his infidelity from his wife. NOT something that you or i could get away with if our mistress’ mode of blabbing was to go down to the pub and tell everyone rather than put it in the Daily Mail. This whole injunction system is just a corrupt tool for the rich and powerful (including the corporate)

  • Here’s an entirely fictional counter-analogy. Some MP’s ex-wife decides to go for revenge. She tells him that she is going to the press with, say, a story about an alleged speeding offence. If this is published, it will cost him a great deal of embarrassment, distress, and possibly his job – as well as a significant proportion of his future earnings. So he goes to court and requests an injunction, alleging that her publication of this story is defamatory, harmful and a violation of privacy. Does he deserve an injunction? ”

    Of course he doesn’t. What is there to even discuss?

  • @Daft
    “Does he deserve an injunction? If not, why not? Discuss.”
    Because there is a claim of a law being broken by a legislator. I support Hune and hope he is cleared, but you cannot equate a potential charge of perverting the course of justice with what happens between two adults in bed.

  • Keith Browning 26th May '11 - 7:52pm

    Why is it that ‘ordinary decent members of the public’ dont seem to NEED a ‘privacy’ law but the rich and famous who have made their wealth and fame from the meagre earnings of the aforesaid ‘ordinary decent members of the public’, do.

    Are there any ‘ordinary decent’ members of the ‘rich and famous’????

    If there are any of the latter would they mind standing up and criticising the behaviour of their rich and famous colleagues. They seem remarkably silent on the issue.

  • daft ha'p'orth 26th May '11 - 9:27pm

    @Alec Macph: “Sorry, I read this as “oh nooooooooooooooes! I’m going to have to explain why I think it’s alright to flout the law and privacy rulings when I disagree but not when I don’t”.”

    Your reading skills are your own problem…

    @Alec Macph: “One rule for all. If Hemmings thinks he is above this one on Giggs, why should Robert Thompson not be identified or border-line racists seek to destroy an African rape-victim?”

    One rule for all? Yeah, that’s why shoplifters get life sentences. Because what is appropriate and proportionate in a given case should never be considered when practicing law. The potential risk or consequences should naturally be completely irrelevant when deciding how to handle a given case; everybody knows that an embarrassed footballer is entirely equivalent to empowering lynch mobs.

    @Steve Way: “you cannot equate a potential charge of perverting the course of justice with what happens between two adults in bed.”

    Note that the example was fictitious 🙂

    But you’re right, they aren’t equivalent, as the politician might suffer much more severely – it is potentially a career-ending scandal – and so presumably, like the rape victim and the ex-con, he is much more in need of an injunction until the facts are known.

    “Because there is a claim of a law being broken by a legislator.”

    You yourself said it was potential, though – what if the ex-wife was unfairly defaming him? What if he claimed she was blackmailing him? Why shouldn’t he be protected until proven guilty, or at least until the CPS have made their position clear?

    From the looks of the responses here there is some agreement that some ’embarrassing’ cases wouldn’t deserve an injunction, and an agreement that they are used for entirely valid reasons in certain other cases. The question is therefore only where one draws the line.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarTony Vickers 21st Aug - 2:14pm
    Bill Fowler: I think you misunderstand the meaning of the word "property", especially when applied to "landed property". Nobody "owns" land: they have certain rights...
  • User AvatarLaurence Cox 21st Aug - 1:22pm
    Henry George, like John Maynard Keynes, was writing at a time when there were no planning constraints on building. The Green Belt around London was...
  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 21st Aug - 1:14pm
    Frankie, Glenn certainly did not claim to have voted Remain. I recall having quite a few trenchant arguments with him before and immediately after the...
  • User AvatarJ.A. Sloan 21st Aug - 12:14pm
    I am one of those who read LDV but am not otherwise politically active. I am interested in the many and different views & opinions...
  • User AvatarOliver Craven 21st Aug - 11:57am
    @Peter I mean as Liberal Democrats, rather than all politicians
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 21st Aug - 11:49am
    Both the DUP (founded by the late Ian Paisley) and Sinn Fein 'Ourselves Alone' but (colloquially known as The Shinners) can be determined negotiators, but...