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Another Superinjunction - Wealthy Financier? Mr Z?

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From the Grauniad:

A wealthy financier involved in a family dispute has made British legal history by winning anonymity in a libel case. This latest court attempt to censor internet material has led to claims that free speech is being further eroded in Britain.

In a novel extension of controversial superinjunctions, Mr Justice Tugendhat forbade anyone in Britain from identifying "Mr Z", who claims to have been defamed by his relatives in a row over a multimillion pound family trust.

The judge ordered that the relatives' identities also be kept secret, and that no one be allowed to detail allegations aired in the secret hearings in the high court in London. His ruling was published under the coded title ZAM v CFW and TFW.

This extreme court-ordered secrecy followed threats on behalf of Z's relations to publicise their accusations globally on the internet, where they could not be suppressed. Z told the judge the allegations were "entirely false" and he was being blackmailed. No defence was produced that the accusations were true. Shortly after Tugendhat issued the gagging order a lengthy set of allegations appeared online. Supposedly posted by a blogger in Niger, they accused Z of misappropriating money from the trust fund and of a sex offence.

The judge's ruling means the Guardian cannot provide any information that would help locate the posting on the internet. But the online document itself would appear to be immune to British court rulings.

Google says of its service blogspot.com that it usually only censors illegal or hate-speech postings and provides "a free service for communication, self-expression and freedom of speech".

People in other countries can continue to discuss the allegations. Sources claiming to be close to the man's relatives told the Guardian that they were living in Italy, out of British jurisdiction. The "Niger blogger" had purportedly been sent court documents by accident and could not now be prevented from circulating them.

Superinjunctions, in which all details of court proceedings are concealed, have never been granted in cases of libel, as far as is known. They have been granted in kiss-and-tell or breach of confidence cases. A special legal committee investigating the controversial orders is due to report next month.

In the most notorious case the oil traders Trafigura last year briefly obtained a superinjunction against the Guardian to suppress a leaked report on its toxic waste dumping, which even prevented reporting proceedings in parliament.

It is rare, though not unknown, for conventional injunctions to be granted in libel cases. These prevent the disputed allegations being repeated until a case is resolved. But it seems unprecedented, legal observers have said, to in addition allow anonymity to all the parties. It is feared it may allow a flood of wealthy libel litigants to seek secrecy injunctions against the media.

"This takes the epidemic of superinjunctions down a dangerous new path," said John Kampfner, who heads the free speech body Index on Censorship, among the groups campaigning for reform of the libel laws. "Now they are being used not only to protect supposed privacy, but libel too." Gavin Millar QC, a media specialist, said: "Courts are increasingly granting anonymity to claimants where withholding details of evidence used to be regarded as sufficient. This case seems to be more of the same. Open justice is suffering."

During the hearing on 3 March, Richard Spearman QC claimed it would be unfair to identify the financier, even though there was no truth in the allegations, because "the fact that [he] has had to seek relief would be capable of being made into a story in its own right and would be likely to lead to widespread speculation as to what story he has been concerned to prevent the defendants from telling". The court was told that employers and other family members had been contacted with the allegations.

Letters had been sent saying "Cleared for worldwide publication" and "on the verge of going viral" and mentioning the "worldwide web". One letter said: "Will some evil person leak the entire proceedings and all the sordid details so that the irresponsible global media … can really get their teeth into them?"

Mr Justice Tugendhat said in his ruling: "In this particular case the public interest in open justice is better served by granting anonymity."

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Secrecy what everything democratic is built on.

I presume even if this had leaked on the internet it wouldn't have mattered and no one really would care.

At least the lawyers are getting paid, I bet there are raking it in.

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