Judge to rule on Sir Fred Goodwin's lover

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The Independent Online

A High Court judge is deciding whether to lift an order banning journalists identifying a woman with whom former bank boss Sir Fred Goodwin had an "extra-marital affair".









Lawyers from News Group Newspapers - publishers of The Sun and News of the World - have asked Mr Justice Tugendhat to lift the privacy injunction, which was imposed earlier this year.



Their application was opposed by lawyers representing the woman - a former work colleague of Sir Fred's.



The judge reserved judgment to a date to be fixed following a hearing at the High Court in London.



Last month, Mr Justice Tugendhat lifted a ban preventing journalists saying Sir Fred - former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland - had an affair with the woman, after a politician used parliamentary privilege to name the millionaire.



The judge varied a privacy order to allow Sir Fred's name to be published after the banker's identity was revealed in the House of Lords by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Stoneham.



His decision followed a court application by News Group Newspapers.



Sir Fred did not object to the order being varied to allow his name to be published.







Richard Spearman QC, for News Group Newspapers, argued that the ban on revealing the woman's identity was stifling public debate in the wake of the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland three years ago.



"It is plainly a matter of real, genuine, public interest," Mr Spearman told the judge.



"Sunlight should be shed on what at the moment are dark corners of this case relating to these matters concerning this extra-marital affair."



He added: "One simply cannot satisfactorily investigate, debate and inform the public about these matters whilst there is this particular cloak of secrecy over the case."



Hugh Tomlinson QC, for the woman, said News Group Newspapers was seeking to build an application on "no foundations at all".



"There is no evidence before the court that there is any public interest in the disclosure of the information," Mr Tomlinson told the judge.



"Apart from a vague reference to the value of sunlight, Mr Spearman has offered no cogent reason or information as to actually why the identification of the lady would add any value to any public debate about the case."



He said if the order was lifted, "large numbers of journalists" would camp outside the woman's home, people would follow her in the street and there would be a huge impact on her and her family.







Mr Spearman outlined the recent history of the Royal Bank of Scotland and explained that it had been rescued by the Government after collapsing in 2008, when Sir Fred was chief executive.



"The Royal Bank of Scotland was one of the largest corporate collapses of the last decade," said Mr Spearman.



"Sir Fred Goodwin was at the helm when the ship hit the rocks."



He said an estimated £50 billion of Government cash had been pumped in to "bail out" the bank.



"(That) works out at thousands of pounds for every member of the public. Thousands of pounds for every taxpayer," he said.



"The public still has a stake in RBS because the money put up has not been re-paid."



Mr Spearman said it was known now that Sir Fred was having an extra-marital affair with a colleague.



What was not known was what, if any, part that affair might have played in the collapse or what, if any, failure of corporate governance there might have been as a result.



He said it was unhealthy for the public not to have information, unhealthy for the media not be to able to report, unhealthy for the bank not to have these matters aired, and the ban was possibly unhealthy for Sir Fred and "the lady concerned".







Mr Tomlinson said the woman had a "reasonable expectation" of privacy.



"There is no evidence that the relationship had anything to with the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland," he said. "There is no evidence of wrongdoing."



He said the woman had not been promoted during the time of the affair.



A High Court judge made the interim privacy order in March after Sir Fred took legal action when he discovered that The Sun planned to publish a story about the "affair".



Mr Justice Tugendhat altered the order on May 19, lifting the ban on the publication of Sir Fred's name.

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