Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Do not read this.

WE all want to know what it is we're not allowed to talk about - so here it is.

Like a few other journalists, I've been sent a list of the current injunctions in the British courts. I'm going to tell you what's on it because its contents are provoking a constitutional ruckus and have already led to what has been called the biggest campaign of civil disobedience in recent times.

So I'm going to tell you everything I can without breaking the law. That's what journalists do, after all.

I have one caveat - the list is not perfect and it seems like there's several duplications on it. It's been drawn up by more than one member of the public with an interest in these things, rather than a journalist or lawyer with access to all the documents. Some of them may be speculative but on the ones I already know about its sources seem sound, so here goes.

It lists about 80 injunctions imposed since 2006. They include those already widely known - such as the footballer who had an affair with Imogen Thomas, the dumping of chemical waste by Trafigura, the one Zac Goldmith and Jemima Khan had against someone who hacked their emails, Fred Goodwin's fling with a colleague while his bank burned and the one Andrew Marr has since broken himself about his affair and possible lovechild - as well as a few others that come as a surprise even to me.

Of those 80, eight strike me as completely fair. Two involve children, and three private individuals who simply want to stay that way. The sixth is about personal pictures found on a stolen laptop and the seventh is a private medical matter. The eighth is the Goldsmith injunction.

Thirty one involve extra-marital affairs. Three are about alleged blackmail, which does not seem to have been reported to the police. Three are aimed at shutting up former employees, and six at keeping former wives or cuckolded husbands quiet. Three specifically mention prostitutes and one appears to be about financial matters.

Some are absurd: one involves allegations someone is losing their hair, while another is about a man who died after he got an injunction but it still can't be reported. One is about failures by a doctor who was criticised by a judge in a social services case, but cannot be identified.

Eleven involve allegations about a crime - either committing one, or the investigation of it. Two appear to relate to the alleged sexual assault of children.

Fifteen have been brought by sportsmen, twelve by stars of stage or screen, five by singers, and four by well-known business people. Most are millionaires, some multi-millionaires. Seven have been brought by women; the rest men.

The respondents are four of the major newspaper groups, two specific journalists, whistleblowers, and victims of misconduct of one kind or another.

I believe there would be a very strong public interest case in reporting about 20 of them. A further 17 are so well-known already, or cover behaviour that's already in the public domain, that I can't see a strong argument to ban the stories.  About a dozen more are so-so, but could be argued one way or the other. The remainder I don't have enough information to judge.

And if you try to count all those figures up and get to 80, you won't - several on the list simply don't have enough information for me to tell you any more than that an injunction exists.

To those expecting me to tell you names, dates and places: I value my liberty, and so have had to disappoint you. I've told you all I can about the things other people don't want you to know, and I've always thought that's my job.

And to any injunction lawyers reading this with a beady eye in the hope of conning more cash out of their clients: I wish you luck, because I haven't broken the law and you know it.

Some of the people on the list have. The fact we are not allowed to know it, because they've got sucked into a flawed court system where the wealthy pay for their peccadilloes to be hidden, is an outrage.

"How much for a journo to get out of jail?"

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