Privacy law chaos as Ryan Giggs gagging order is smashed

THE whole super-injunction process is in tatters today, after Ryan Giggs followed former banker Sir Fred Goodwin in having a privacy order revealed in the Houses of Parliament.

• Manchester United star Ryan Giggs has been outed as the footballer at the centre of the superinjunction row

Giggs was sensationally outed as the Premier League footballer at the heart of the row over an alleged affair with Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas, after being named by John Hemming MP.

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Just minutes after the High Court ruled the gagging order must remain in place, following an appeal by the Sun newspaper, Mr Hemming used parliamentary privilege to unmask the Manchester United star – fellow Liberal Democrat Lord Stoneham last week used the same procedure to reveal Sir Fred's alleged affair with a colleague while at Royal Bank of Scotland.

Giggs took out the super-injunction in April, but the order was ignored in more than 75,000 tweets, as rumours spread like wildfire on the social networking site Twitter.

The media frenzy surrounding Giggs led Sir Alex Ferguson, his club manager, to cancel an appearance at the funeral yesterday of former SFA secretary Ernie Walker in Glasgow, so he could "deal with the fall-out" of the player's picture appearing in a Scottish Sunday newspaper at the weekend.

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland said Scottish publications could safely reveal super-injunctions taken out in London, as they did not extend north of the Border.

"The superinjunction granted by the High Court in England and Wales does not apply in Scotland," a Crown Office spokesman said.

"Separate proceedings would have to be initiated in the Scottish courts to prevent publication here. Assuming that no interdict has been obtained in Scotland to prevent publication, there does not appear to be any basis for saying that the Sunday Herald has committed a legal wrong."

Earlier in the day, First Minister Alex Salmond said it would be "extremely foolish" for the Attorney General in England to try to start proceedings against a Scottish publication.

And Prime Minister David Cameron warned that banning newspapers from identifying stars who had taken out injunctions, when the information was easily available on websites such as Twitter, was "unsustainable" and "unfair".

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Giggs – English football's most successful player of all time – is understood to have instructed lawyers to take legal action against four household names who had identified him on Twitter.

However, Mr Hemming told the House of Commons: "With about 75,000 people having named Ryan Giggs on Twitter, it is obviously impracticable to imprison them all."

Conservative MP John Whittingdale said: "You would virtually have to be living in an igloo not to know the identity of at least one Premier League footballer who has obtained an injunction.

"The actions by thousands of people of posting details of this on Twitter are in danger of making the law look an ass."

Mr Hemming also revealed that Giles Coren, a journalist at the Times, was facing contempt of court proceedings for allegedly naming on Twitter another Premier League player with a privacy injunction.

Meanwhile, in court, the Sun called for the Giggs order to be lifted in England.

"It is time for the courts to do the right thing and end a situation where readers of some newspapers but not others are allowed to know the worst-kept secret in the country," its lawyers argued.

However, Mr Justice Eady ruled: "The court's duty remains to try and protect the claimant, and particularly his family, from intrusion and harassment so long as it can."

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Earlier, the Prime Minister said: "It is rather unsustainable, this situation, where newspapers can't print something that clearly everybody else is talking about, but there's a difficulty here because the law is the law, and the judges must interpret what the law is. What I've said in the past is, the danger is that judgments are effectively writing a new law, which is what parliament is meant to do.

"So I think the government, parliament, has got to take some time out, have a proper look at this, have a think about what we can do, but I'm not sure there is going to be a simple answer."

Mr Cameron suggested that one route might be to strengthen the Press Complaints Commission.

"It's not fair on the newspapers if all the social media can report this and the newspapers can't, so the law and the practice has got to catch up with how people consume media today," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Salmond questioned whether super-injunctions were still tenable. "I think it would be very, very unlikely that an Attorney General would be as foolish as to (start proceedings against a Scottish newspaper]," he said.

"I think the political issue is whether it is tenable to pursue this sort of injunction.

"I would have thought there is an increasing view it is untenable to do so. There is a whole question of what is of interest to the public and what is in the public interest, which can often be different things.

"But the law essentially is a practical thing. It looks to me like English law and English injunctions are increasingly impractical in the modern world."

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Mr Salmond had also been due to attend the funeral of Mr Walker, a Scottish footballing legend, but, like Sir Alex, was forced to pull out.

Alan Walker, Ernie's oldest son, told the congregation at Shawlands Kirk in Glasgow: "As you will probably have noticed by his absence at the church today, Sir Alex Ferguson has unfortunately had to phone me at 9am this morning to say that owing to circumstances, as reported in the Sunday Herald, he is required to stay in Manchester today, to deal with the fall-out from this latest round of the tabloid favourite, the super injunction."

The Sunday Herald, which pictured Giggs before the super-injunction was revealed in parliament, said it was protected from prosecution because it was a Scottish publication.

Tim Blott, its managing director, remains confident in the legal advice given to the newspaper at the weekend.

"I'm happy to take the view of our lawyers," he said. "Newsquest (Herald and Times) is a limited company in its own right and registered in Scotland.

"Our legal advice, prior to publication, was that we publish the story on a point of principle."

A spokesman for Attorney General Dominic Grieve said he was aware of the newspaper's front page but "hasn't received any complaints or referrals from any parties or by any court".

In parliament, Mr Grieve announced a joint committee would be set to examine the future of super-injunctions.

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He said: "Such a committee will be able to use representation of both Houses and the considerable expertise that select committees have to examine whether the current arrangements are working and to consider whether we might make any changes that would make things work better."

Manchester United did not respond to calls asking the club to comment on the manager's non-appearance at Mr Walker's funeral or the naming of Giggs in the House of Commons.

Shillings Lawyers, which has represented Giggs, also declined to comment.

A Twitter spokesman said he was unable to comment