Judge clarifies Sir Fred Goodwin order

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The Independent Online

A privacy order preventing journalists publishing details about a "sexual relationship" former Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) boss Sir Fred Goodwin had with a work colleague does not stop financial regulators mounting "any sort" of inquiry, a High Court judge said today.

Mr Justice Tugendhat said the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the RBS board or any other regulator remained free to investigate.

The judge clarified the limitations of the injunction after explaining his reasons for lifting a ban which had preventing journalists from naming Sir Fred as the person who had applied for the order earlier this year.

He told lawyers during a High Court hearing in London: "Anybody who thought that the injunction was directed at preventing any sort of investigation, whether by the FSA, any other regulatory body or the board of the RBS, would be wholly mistaken."

Mr Justice Tugendhat changed the terms of the order - initially made in March - on May 19 after Liberal Democrat peer Lord Stoneham used parliamentary privilege to name Sir Fred in parliament.

He said, in a written explanation of his reasoning, that Sir Fred had not opposed the order being "varied" in the light of Lord Stoneham's statement in the Lords earlier on May 19.

The judge altered the injunction to allow Sir Fred to be named but said parts of the order preventing the identity of the woman involved or details of the relationship being published would remain in place.

Sir Fred, 52, took legal action in March after discovering that The Sun newspaper planned to publish a story about the "relationship", the court heard.

He alleged that the tabloid newspaper was threatening his right to privacy and a judge granted the temporary injunction which prevented publication of his identity.

Lord Stoneham had raised the issue in the Lords as a "public interest" matter - after the RBS collapsed and was given a £45 billion taxpayer bailout by the Government in 2008.

He told peers: "Every taxpayer has a direct public interest in the events leading up to the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland, so how can it be right for a super-injunction to hide the alleged relationship between Sir Fred Goodwin and a senior colleague."

Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mr Goodwin, said it was accepted that the order should be varied to allow Sir Fred to be named because of what had been said in Parliament.

He told the judge there had been no suggestion before the court at any stage that Sir Fred had done "anything improper in his conduct of the business of the Royal Bank of Scotland".

In March, Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to reveal that Sir Fred, chief executive of the RBS before it was nationalised, had won an injunction - although he gave no details.