It would be very easy to condem Hemming for abusing parliamentary privilege coupled with instantaneous distribution via mass media to flout the law but as a Liberal I am finding it hard to support these ‘super-injunctions’. They often seem to act as unwarranted freedom, granted to the wealthy and the privileged (the legal costs involved are beyond most), to behave as they wish and preserve their anonymity. Freedom of expression is an essential feature of any open, liberal and democratic society. Of course this is not an unqualified right but many of the recently broken super-injunctions (Trafigura, Doncaster Council, Goodwin) have revealed that information that is clearly in the public interest has purposefully been kept out of the public realm.
There may well be rare cases where this kind of injunction is warrented (where somones life is at stake) but the constant habit of MPs using the privilege of parliament to challenge these judicial rulings means as it currently stands the super-injunction ceases to be viable.
Where we go from here is a very difficult question. A much clearer definition of what is and what isn’t in the ‘public interest’ would appear to be a good start.
As a side note its worth mentioning that the flipside to freedom of the press is an obligation to act responsibly. Unfortunately that is sadly lacking in this country – all most of our press are interested in is the freedom to print anything that sells more copies and the freedom to smear political enemies without any meaningful redress. They say you get the press you deserve – if that’s true it doesn’t say much about the country we live in.