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The only law that the peculiar British “super-injunction” seems guaranteed to uphold is the law of unintended consequences.
A quick reminder: a super-injunction is a court-issued gag order preventing the media from reporting on a certain person or subject. Media outlets that violate a super-injunction can be prosecuted and fined.
But it’s become increasingly obvious that many of these super-injunctions, in addition to being unenforceable in the age of the Internet, call heightened attention to the secrets they’re meant to protect.
That’s what happened today to BBC presenter Andrew Marr — who trended on Twitter in the UK — because of a super-injunction he sought, and received, from a court in 2008 to squelch reports about an affair he had with a colleague.
Today, the 51-year-old Marr told The Daily Mail he was “embarrassed” and “uneasy” about the injunction and would no longer seek to have it enforced.
“I did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists,” Mr. Marr said.
But he added: “I also had my own family to think about, and I believed this story was nobody else’s business. I still believe there was, under those circumstances, no legitimate public interest in it.”
The magazine Private Eye, however, had apparently been showing interest. The satirical journal’s editor Ian Hislop, whose antipathy to injunctions is well-known, said he’d been pursuing the story because Marr was “the most respectable of the people” seeking super-injunctions.
“As a leading BBC interviewer who is asking politicians about failures in judgment, failures in their private lives, inconsistencies, it was pretty rank of him to have an injunction while working as an active journalist,” Hislop said on BBC 4 Radio. “I think he knows that, and I’m very pleased he’s come forward and said, ‘I can no longer do this’.”
AceBlaggard: Andrew Marr has an affair then gags other journos with a super injunction saying it’s to protect his family. What a hypocrite!
IainDale: I really don’t like all the venom directed at Andrew Marr. Wouldn’t most of us protect our families at the cost of being called a hypocrite?
LittleGemSmith: Reading about Andrew Marr’s sex life today has me wishing he’d stuck with the super-injunction
brooligan: Just saw the news. If I looked like Andrew Marr and I’d pulled, I’d be taking out ads, not superinjunctions.
If you’re still interested, and up for a laugh, you might want to take a look at this video clip from Friday night’s quiz show Have I Got News For You. In it, Ian Hislop takes on super-injunctions, and MP Louise Bagshawe (the subject of Friday’s UK Twitter Trends) comes perilously close to violating one. So close, in fact, that the BBC muted her sound and superimposed a black video bar over Bagshawe’s mouth when she used a word that she artfully said didn’t rhyme with the name of a footballer who allegedly had an affair with Big Brother’s Imogen Thomas.
“Can someone call the police?” Hislop immediately asked. “I’m sitting here, next to a Conservative MP, who’s trying to break a series of super-injunctions.”