MP John Hemming names injunction-row footballer

MP John Hemming today named the footballer at the centre of a super-injunction privacy row and the journalist who is at risk of being prosecuted for contempt of court after apparently breaching a privacy injunction on social networking site Twitter in a different case.

His move came as The Sun lost a high court bid to overturn the anonymised injunction preventing journalists from revealing the identity of a married Premiership star who had an affair with former Miss Wales Imogen Thomas.

Hemming was allowed to apparently breach an anonymised injunction because debate in Parliament is covered by absolute privilege. However, as the Neuberger report noted last week, reports of his comments are only covered by qualified privilege.

This means that reports published without malice would be protected from libel action but there is apparently no protection from the contempt of court proceedings which could arise from breaching an injunction.

The Neuberger report said that the law was unclear on this issue and that “the unfettered reporting of Parliamentary proceedings (in apparent breach of court orders) has not been established as a clear right”.

After Hemming named the footballer and the journalist, Speaker of the House John Bercow responded: ‘Let me just say to the honourable gentleman, I know he’s already done it, but occasions such as this are occasions for raising the issues of principle involved, not seeking to flout for whatever purpose. If the honourable gentleman wants to finish his question in an orderly way he can do so.”

Hemming replied: “The question is what the Government’s view is on an enforceability of a law that clearly doesn’t have public consent.”

Attorney General Dominic Grieve told the Commons this afternoon that a joint committee was being set up to look into the future of privacy law in the UK.

He said: ‘ A range of wider issues have been raised by events of the last few months, and especially the last weekend.

‘We take seriously the need to ensure that we have the correct balances between privacy and freedom of expression.

“Today the Prime Minister is writing to my right honourable friend [John Whittingdale MP] recommending that a joint committee be established to consider how current arrangements can be improved.

‘Such a committee will be able to use representation in both houses… to examine whether the c current arrangements are working and to consider whether might make any changes that might things make work better.”

4.30pm UPDATE: Numerous media organisations are now reporting Hemming’s comments naming the footballer, taking the chance that – in view of the fact that his name is already extremely widely known – they are unlikely to be prosecuted for contempt of court.

5.20pm UPDATE: Most mainstream organisations have identified the footballer including the BBC and the Press Association.

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