When blank blank wants a super-injunction, who does he call?
Richard Spearman and Hugh Tomlinson are the go-to barristers for gagging orders. Andy McSmith profiles the pair who between them are rewriting Britain's privacy laws
Saturday 30 April 2011
They are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of the injunction circuit.
Two London barristers are becoming the envy of their profession as between them they hoover up the lion's share of the lucrative work created by the rise of super-injunctions.
If you are rich and famous and want to keep your name out of the news, or if you are a tabloid editor fighting for the right to expose someone's sexual shenanigans, send for either Richard Spearman QC or Hugh Tomlinson QC.
The usual line-up is that Mr Tomlinson will argue for the injunction while Mr Spearman defends the right to publish But they are professional advocates, not civil rights campaigners, and will switch roles if that is what the client requires. One man who heard them both in court claimed: "They spent more time agreeing with each other than fighting each other."
The media lawyer Mark Stephens said: "These two appear in all the cases, pretty much. Because these cases can't be put into the law reports in the same detail as normal cases, it pays to get a barrister who has actually been involved in them.
"There are no new arguments produced in court: it's the same people making the same arguments in the cosy closed shop we have at the moment. They have appeared on both sides in court, but actually both of them believe in privacy absolutely."
Mr Spearman represented Helen Wood, the prostitute who once participated in three-in-a-bed sex with Wayne Rooney. She wanted to publish an account of her relations with a famous actor. Mr Tomlinson fought successfully for the star's identity to be protected.
They were on opposing sides again in the case of the Premier League footballer, known as JIH, who also wanted to keep an alleged affair out of the newspapers. Again, Mr Tomlinson represented the footballer, and Mr Spearman represented the newspaper.
And there is another case well known to lawyers, but covered by a super-injunction so severe that no details can be given at all except to say that a rich and famous man wanted to protect his privacy, which pitched the same two barristers playing the same parts.
But they changed roles last year, when the BBC went to court in a failed attempt to stop the Formula Three driver Ben Collins from revealing in his autobiography that he was the mystery Top Gear driver previously known only as The Stig. Then Mr Tomlinson represented HarperCollins, arguing for the right to publish, while Mr Spearman sought to gag. A Freedom of Information inquiry revealed that Mr Spearman's fee for that case was £31,000.
Mr Spearman, a Cambridge-educated lawyer, is described by those who know him as charming, clever, capable, courteous and "wonderfully pragmatic". He has practised as a barrister since 1977 and boasts on his website of being "in the front rank of the battle over privacy rights". Eight years ago, The Lawyer magazine named him "Mr Privacy 2002" after he had been involved in every high-profile privacy case of that year, including the Daily Mirror versus Naomi Campbell. He also represented the multi-millionaire hedge fund manager Elena Ambrosiadou in her court battle to prevent her ex-husband from publishing details of her personal and business affairs. In that case, Mr Spearman pleaded unsuccessfully for the press and public to be barred from the courtroom. Mr Tomlinson is six years younger than Mr Spearman, and makes the slightly more modest claim on his website that he is "highly rated by the directories in defamation and privacy". One of the leading law directories calls him "razor sharp" and with a "good sense of humour".
He is well known as a defender of privacy law. When David Cameron expressed concern last week about the spread of a judge-made privacy law, Mr Tomlinson described his remarks as "regrettably uninformed". He was involved in one of the most contentious privacy cases this year, when he argued successfully in favour of a super-injunction to protect an actor who had had an affair with a colleague. The actor broke off the affair after his wife found out, and his former lover was sacked. The first time Mr Spearman and Mr Tomlinson went head-to-head in a high-profile case, it was not an argument over privacy. David and Victoria Beckham were suing the News of the World for libel. That was in 2005, when newspapers could publish first and be damned afterwards. Now they are frequently stopped from publishing at all, after Mr Tomlinson and Mr Spearman have had their day in court.
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