The Guardian has claimed a victory in its five-week legal battle with oil traders Trafigura after lawyers Carter Ruck on Friday dropped the ‘super-injunction’ which had banned publication of the Minton report about pollution in Ivory Coast.
The injunction had already been rendered obsolete by the whistle-blowers’ website Wikileaks which published the Minton report in full some weeks ago – making it easily findable online via Google.
Last week Carter Ruck claimed that the injunction as phrased stopped The Guardian from reporting a parliamentary question asked by MP Paul Farrelly about the matter.
On Tuesday they allowed the injunction to be varied to allow the reporting of Farrelly’s question.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said: “I welcome the climbdown by Trafigura and Carter-Ruck. Now people can read the Minton Report they will realise why it was in the public interest for it to be published.
“It has taken a five-week legal battle – involving journalists, lawyers, bloggers and parliament itself – to force this information into the open. Never again should a newspaper be threatened with contempt of court for reporting Parliament.
“And judges should think again about the use of ‘super-injunctions’ which are themselves secret.
“This is a good day for Parliament, open justice and free reporting.”
Commons Speaker John Bercow last week defended Parliament’s right to decide for itself what MPs discuss as controversy over the court order rumbled on.
Bercow received a letter from solicitors Carter-Ruck, acting for Trafigura, stating that it understood the injunction to be “sub judice” under the terms of House of Commons rules designed to avoid prejudicing court proceedings.
Solicitors Carter-Ruck said the final decision was subject to the Speaker’s discretion, but there were concerns among MPs that the letter might inhibit an debate on the injunction due to be held in the Commons this week.
In a letter to Carter-Ruck released by his office yesterday, Bercow replied: “This is a matter for the House and the discretion of the Chair.”
Cater-Ruck said in a statement on Friday: “Settlement has today been reached with The Guardian newspaper over the injunction proceedings brought by our clients Trafigura Limited and Trafigura Beheer BV.
“The injunction concerned a draft Report which had been commissioned from Minton, Treharne & Davies in September 2006.
“In early September 2009, Trafigura learned that the draft Report had been unlawfully obtained by an unknown third party and apparently passed to The Guardian.
“As The Guardian were informed, the draft report was confidential and subject to legal privilege. However, despite a number of requests, The Guardian refused even to confirm that it had the document, still less that it would not publish it. This left Trafigura with little alternative but to make a court application.
“At that point, The Guardian immediately undertook not to publish the draft report and gave undertakings, reflected in a court order. The Guardian has never attempted to argue that it would have been justified in publishing the draft report while the document remained confidential.”
The statement said that Trafigura now “agrees that there is no longer any purpose in the injunction remaining in place”.
It added: “Despite suggestions to the contrary in certain quarters, neither Trafigura nor Carter-Ruck has at any time improperly sought to stifle or restrict debate in Parliament or the reporting thereof.”