Nick Clegg tweets about #trafigura (and #CarterRuck)

Nick Clegg (or at least his office) has just tweeted the following:

Very interested concerned about this #trafigura / Guardian story the @LibDems are planning to take action on this

If you’re not on Twitter – where #trafigura is now the top-trending topic – then this post from Rob Fenwick will give you the astonishing background: namely that libel law specialists Carter-Ruck have succeeded in slapping an injunction on the Guardian preventing the newspaper from reporting the following question tabled in Parliament:

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.

As Rob concludes:

Carter Ruck have gone much too far in this ill-judged attempt to stand between people and Parliament. The injunction must be overturned, and if there’s a decent person anywhere at the top of that company, they’ll publicly apologise for their actions.

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  • Chris Keating 13th Oct '09 - 10:47am

    So what happened to qualified privilege?

  • Erlend Watson 13th Oct '09 - 11:04am

    I think you understate it Chris. Isn’t qualified privilege for fair comment on the proceedings. The actual proceedings bear total privilege.

  • I am very glad you mentioned this story but it needs much more attention from the liberal community. This story seems to be getting more coverage in the right-of-centre blogs than the left, judging by my admittedly limited search this morning.

  • David Cooper 13th Oct '09 - 11:30am

    Which judge allowed this gagging order? Is he still in post and if so why?

  • Rather predicatably vastly more people have now read this (pretty innocuous) question than would ever have been the case previously.

    Were The Guardian specifically injuncted from reporting this particular question or is it a result of an overly wide injunction on reporting the Trafigura case generally?

    It did occur to me that The Guardian might have deliberately taken a very wide interpretation of the injunction they were under to make a point.

  • Typical of the spineless Guardian – why don’t they just publish and be damned as the saying goes.

  • David Cooper 13th Oct '09 - 1:25pm

    @jim- very brave comment you made there, “jim”.

  • Chris Keating 13th Oct '09 - 4:07pm

    Erlend – yes, asking questions in Parliament is covered by absolute privilege. However, coverage of proceedings in Parliament or law courts is qualified privilege. So I’m amazed that any court granted an injunction.

  • “It did occur to me that The Guardian might have deliberately taken a very wide interpretation of the injunction they were under to make a point.”

    Hmmm – I increasingly subscribe to this view having read the letter from Carter Ruck to the speaker.

    1) The Guardian has apparently consented to the order currently in place (not reporting the colour of Trafigura CEO’s curtains or whatever)
    2) That order was made without contemplation that the matter might be raised in Parliament
    3) Having been contacted about the Guardian Carter Ruck said that they thought it would breach the injunction and contact their clients for instructions saying they will contact them early the following (Tues) morning (that the Guardian didn’t publish suggests the first part is right).
    4) Whilst they were doing that the Guardian published their story – and the rest is pretty well known.

    Complete Rubbish – see s1, s32 Constitutional Reform Act among other things

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