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Private Parts

May 24, 2011

It seems to me this whole privacy debate leaves a few questions unasked and/or unanswered.  The revelation came yesterday that Ryan Giggs is the footballer alleged to have had an affair with Imogen Thomas off that there Big Brother.  This is something I read 2 weeks ago and I’ve hardly got my finger on the media pulse.  Twitter told me.  So, for me, the first question is: why maintain the injunction when the information is in the public domain?

The fact that a footballer (married or not) had sex with a reality TV ‘star’ is not exactly news and I don’t really see that it is in the public interest either.  The second question then is: who cares?

Finally, nobody seems to be happy that judges are making privacy law in this country, which leads me to my final, and most important, question: why are they?

I think the answer to the first question is simply that social networking is still largely outside the experience of some judges and so very little credence is given to the information passed through such networks.  The judiciary remain unconvinced that information on social networks, such as Twitter, is in the public domain.  UK Twitter users account for anywhere between 2 and 7 million tweets per day and Facebook has over 30 million UK users.  If it’s on these media it’s in the public domain.  We’re just waiting on the judiciary to catch up.  That’s the way it is.

The answer to the second question is that, apart from Ryan Giggs and his family, nobody outside the red top media and associated people would have cared if it weren’t for the injunction.  The story would have come and gone.  The overtones of possible blackmail by The Sun and Imogen Thomas in this case are somewhat disturbing and lead me to believe that this was far from the ideal test case for privacy injunctions.  Bottom line is that footballers shag minor female celebrities and vice versa.  It’s all very unpleasant and lacking in class, but ultimately uninteresting to me.

The reason that judges are making law in regard to issues like privacy is that Parliament abdicated the responsibility for doing so in 1998 when the Human Rights Act  (HRA) was passed, incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into English Law.  The Act explicitly passes the onus to judges when deciding how conflicting rights should be interpreted, with the final authority being the European Court in Strasbourg.  What’s more if Parliament decides to legislate on the matter, that legislation itself must pass muster with the judges as being in line with the ECHR, because of the HRA 98.

To summarise then: Parliament handed responsibility to judges over 10 years ago for decisions in matters like privacy versus free speech.  In order to regain control of such matters Parliament must either repeal the HRA or create legislation within that framework which will have to be rubber-stamped by a court outside the UK.

Not bad for a country that first enshrined civil liberties and human rights in law around 1000 years ago and has been at the forefront of developing such ideas ever since.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. PJH permalink
    May 24, 2011 17:55

    I suppose the only public interest point I can see is that a professional footballer was being blackmailed and that of course brings into question his integrity as a player involved in a game with millions of pounds and a large gambling industry….

  2. May 24, 2011 18:48

    I couldn’t agree more…ultimately uninteresting to me…well said. It’s interesting that when there’s so much chatter about who may and may not have super-injunctions the fottballer who couldn’t keep his pants on and the woman who wanted to keep her 15minutes of fame made such a storm when it is hardly an unusal occurance.

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