New Twitter breach as claims of celebrity gagging orders published

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The Independent Online

Lawyers and media specialists last night called on the courts to take action to enforce injunctions broken over the internet after another social media user purported to publish details of celebrity gagging orders.

A newly created Twitter account posted details of 13 alleged injunctions early yesterday morning, directing users to a website for further detailed information. After attracting more than 500 followers within the first 10 hours of publication, the tweets were removed, but Mark Stephens, a media lawyer who represents WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, said the courts would now be compelled to act.

He said: "It's another flagrant breach. I would hope that the court would flex some muscle. The courts don't have to wait to take action. We are in exceptional circumstances. The court must take steps to enforce the injunctions."

He said the courts could instruct the Attorney General or solicitors to begin proceedings, at public expense, to find out who the person behind the breach was. They would then be subject to a contempt of court action.

"One of the things about this is that it is a cynical snub of the judiciary but a lot of this information has been available for people using the internet for quite some time," said Mr Stephens, who represented Mr Assange when the US government tried to obtain his Twitter details.

But Sara Mansoori, a media barrister at Matrix chambers, which represents claimants and defendants including some mentioned in the latest alleged Twitter breach, said a judge had recently rebuffed solicitors' calls for the court to start contempt proceedings – instead telling them they could apply to the Attorney General to intervene.

"The parties need to encourage the courts to take those steps but it [this alleged breach] is against a backdrop between the courts and Parliaments," she said, adding that the courts and Parliament now needed to work together to decide how to act.

"The [breaches] are starting to be a head-on collision with the courts," she said. "Courts are implementing laws by Parliament. We have moved away from privacy laws to contempt laws, we are in a very serious situation [but] we have got Parliament, through comments through the Prime Minister saying he is concerned about the courts, and John Hemming [the MP] saying they are unhappy with the way the courts are applying the law."

She added that the Parliamentary committee currently looking into changes in the law "was highly unlikely to come up with quick ideas of any practical use" and said internet and jurisdiction specialists were needed to create a quick solution to the problem. She said: "This is wider than just the UK now and just the courts and Parliament."

Paul Staines, who runs a political blog under the name Guido Fawkes, said the latest development proved once again that technology was far ahead of the law.

"People doing this kind of thing isn't new," he said. "During the Northern Rock crisis there was a document from Merrill Lynch [about any proposed deal with the bank]. I had a copy and the FT [Financial Times] had a copy but the FT got hit with an injunction within two hours. I just uploaded it from an Indian website."

The author of the latest alleged Twitter breach used the "anonymous" mask – employed by groups and individuals seeking to subvert institutions and whistle blow wrongdoings.