A legal manouevre that backfired spectacularly

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The Independent Online

Law firm Schillings has long styled itself as a fearsome attack dog used by the moneyed to bring the media to heel, but its tactics in dealing with super-injunctions are now being questioned within the industry, following its advice to the "family footballer" alleged to have had sex with a former Big Brother star. Since Schillings partner Gideon Benaim, on the instructions of the player who can be identified only as "CTB" in the English press, launched proceedings against Twitter Inc, the injunction has been breached tens of thousands of times and in increasingly imaginative ways, online and in the "real" world. One wit wrote full details in sand, adding that the footballer "can't sue the beach".

Within 24 hours of the legal action, 12,000 tweets naming the footballer had been posted. At one point they were appearing at a rate of 17 a second. Then yesterday, a Scottish newspaper decided to publish and be damned, printing the footballer's photograph across its front page. Nicholas Armstrong – a partner at law firm Charles Russell – said the Schillings strategy "looks counter-productive when the aim was to keep the story out of the public eye". He added: "It's like bellows on the fire. It explodes out of control and brings much more attention to it."

Schillings will feel vindicated if Twitter Inc decides to hand over the real names of several people who used the network to identify the footballer. But this is considered unlikely. The San Francisco-based company does not consider itself bound by English legal orders. Mr Armstrong suggested Schillings may have done better to "leave well alone", adding: "For people in this situation, there's a lot to be said for letting the storm blow out. It's not always the best decision just to head off to the court. Like this, it can go viral."

Amber Melville-Brown, a media specialist at Withers LLP, said: "[This] serves as a reminder to anyone engaging in legal action that in all but the most exceptional cases – and some privacy cases fall into this exception – the litigation is likely to be scrutinised. In the modern world where information... can be communicated to billions, worldwide... this has to factor into the risk assessment of any litigant."

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