First of all it was properly private. No one knew about it, and no one knew about it because no one was allowed to speak about it. Then it became a little less private. Whispers were abound of a super-injunction trying its best to suppress a story of an alleged affair involving a well known celebrity. Gradually the whispers got louder, more and more people began to speak and then it happened – an internet post less than one hundred and forty characters long broke the injunction and named its owner.
From this point the information spread like wildfire, the injunction now little more than a lone firefighter vainly trying to beat down the flames as the forest around him burnt. Upwards of seventy five thousand people forwarded the celebrity’s name around the web and unbound by the injunction, foreign media openly published his identity.
The law was widely flouted, the secret was out but even so, the injunction prevented the papers printing the name that was already on everybody’s lips.
The situation was fascinating as it brought into sharp focus some of the questions raised in a previous post about exactly what the law is. Having been asked the question, I had come to the conclusion that it’s very hard to define. The law is organic – it shifts in response to the movements of those it applies to and as such can never to tied down under any one definition.
To be relevant, the law needs to keep up with both public opinion and technology. The debate over the breaking of the super-injunction and how best to address it seems to have shown that the current law regarding privacy is simply not manageable. The Prime Minster has suggested that a review may be required in light of how many people openly broke the injunction and the subsequent impossibility of prosecuting all those responsible.
More than anything, the row over super-injunctions shows how important it is for our laws, and the way we interpret them, to keep up to speed with the modern world. The consequence of laws that are no longer applicable to the world in which we live can be clearly seen – they simply don’t work.