Stephen Glover: Judges need to wake up to the 21st century

Media Studies: It seems not to occur to them that the privacy law may not carry consent

A reputable Scottish newspaper, yesterday identified a footballer linked to a privacy injunction by the microblogging website Twitter. It claimed in an editorial that the injunction "holds no legal force" in Scotland. Maybe, but the paper is available in England, where the High Court's writ does run. As I write, the online version of the paper does not carry the story.

This is only the latest example of judicial privacy orders being disregarded. Last week the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Stoneham revealed in the Lords that the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland Sir Fred Goodwin had an affair with a senior colleague before his bank collapsed at the cost of tens of billions of pounds to the taxpayer. In the Commons, the Lib Dem MP John Hemming had previously also used parliamentary privilege to disclose that Sir Fred had been granted a super-injunction – a judicial order whose very existence is supposed to be secret.

The judiciary also appears unable to restrain tens of thousands of "tweeters" who have "tweeted" the name of the footballer identified by the paper. A few days ago this footballer was given leave in the High Court to try to gag Twitter, which is based in the United States. Even if Twitter recognised the jurisdiction of the English courts, it is difficult to see how an action against tens of thousands of tweeters could be sustained, particularly as some of them may be untraceable.

The High Court is trying to enforce the unenforceable. Until now, newspapers, which are generally obedient, had respected such orders, but their patience is cracking because the information is so readily available on the internet or Twitter. Last Friday, Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, expressed surprise that "someone who has a true claim for protection" should be "at the mercy of modern technology". His Lordship needs to wake up to the 21st century.

Judges have made things worse for themselves. If they had not issued so many privacy orders forbidding newspapers to publish, there would probably not have been the reaction we have seen on the internet. By denying newspapers the right to publish what is arguably in the public interest, judges have stimulated an enormous public appetite which only the internet can satisfy.

The judges are their own worst enemies in another way. They have not understood the rising disquiet at the privacy law they are developing out of Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights. They believed only the tabloids were irked. In fact, the issue is turning into one of free speech which concerns parliamentarians and the public. And yet last Friday the report of a committee chaired by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, was rash enough to challenge parliamentary sovereignty.

If a parliamentarian names the recipient of an injunction, and is deemed not to have acted "in good faith and without malice" (surely a near impossible judgment), a media organisation which publishes his words will be guilty of contempt of court even though they were spoken under parliamentary privilege. Moreover, a journalist who learns the identity of the claimant in a court order, and passes it on to a third party, may be guilty of contempt, as the third party will be if he or she mentions it to a friend.

I don't want to be melodramatic but this smacks very faintly of a police state. The judges reasonably hate to see their authority thwarted. It seems not to occur to them, though, that the privacy law they are making may not carry consent. Notwithstanding Lord Judge's assertion on Friday that Parliament created this privacy law, the judges are in fact developing a principle contained in a law. The higher judiciary has overreached itself by doing this in so rapid and restrictive a way, and now risks undermining its authority by contemplating unconstitutional or impractical methods to enforce its orders.







Should Mason act on his politics?



Last autumn Paul Mason, BBC Newsnight's economics editor, joined in a picket outside BBC Television Centre in a dispute over staff pensions. Did his public championing of a strike undermine his reputation for even-handedness?

Now a possibly even more worrying instance of Mr Mason's political activities has come to light. On 14 May he took part in a Levellers Day march in Burford, Oxfordshire, under the slogan "Jobs! The Future of Employment!" The march takes place annually in commemoration of the execution of three Leveller soldiers by Oliver Cromwell in 1649.

It was a serious political occasion, sponsored by the trade union Unite and CND among others, whose general tenor was strongly anti-cuts. Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers' Union, delivered a stirring speech against job losses.

Paul Mason is pictured above holding rather sweetly a bouquet of flowers as he marches with comrades. We may reasonably infer from his presence that he is opposed to the Coalition's cutbacks. That is a perfectly reasonable point of view. The trouble is that he is Newsnight's economics editor, and is supposed to report impartially and evenhandedly on the cuts and their effects.

All reporters obviously have political opinions, but if they promote them publicly they jeopardise their reputation for objectivity. The issue has nothing to do with Mr Mason's beliefs. I would feel exactly the same if his colleague Emily Maitlis took part in a pro-cuts march organised, say, by the Centre for Policy Studies. My, what a hoo-hah there would be! Ms Maitlis would certainly lose her job. Mr Mason, I have no doubt, will keep his.

s.glover@independent.co.uk

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

Business, Marketing and Tourism Volunteer Projects

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: As part of an ongoing effort to support local...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit