Privacy injunctions unsustainable, says Cameron
- 23 May 2011
- From the section UK
Privacy rulings affecting newspapers are "unsustainable" and unfair on the press, the prime minister has said.
David Cameron told ITV1's Daybreak the law should be reviewed to "catch up with how people consume media today".
But the High Court has again refused a Sun application to name a married footballer said to have had a "sexual relationship" with a reality TV star.
On Sunday, a Scottish paper named the man who was identified on Twitter as having taken out a privacy injunction.
The player, who an injunction says can only be identified as CTB, is involved in proceedings against ex-Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas, who is a former Miss Wales, and the Sun newspaper.
Mr Cameron told Daybreak: "It is rather unsustainable, this situation, where newspapers can't print something that clearly everybody else is talking about.
"But there's a difficulty here because the law is the law and the judges must interpret what the law is.
"What I've said in the past is, the danger is that judgements are effectively writing a new law which is what Parliament is meant to do.
"So I think the government, Parliament, has got to take some time out, have a proper look at this, have a think about what we can do, but I'm not sure there is going to be a simple answer."
Newspapers are prevented from identifying the player by a court injunction, although tens of thousands of Twitter users have named him.
In response to a legal bid to find out who was behind messages naming the footballer, users responded by posting more.
The prime minister said one solution might be to strengthen the Press Complaints Commission so that people had more confidence in the body.
The prime minister's official spokesman later told journalists the government would seek a wide debate on injunctions before taking any potential action to deal with the issue.
An urgent parliamentary question will be answered by Attorney General Dominic Grieve on the government's position on the "granting and enforcement" of privacy orders in the Commons at 1530 BST.
Labour leader Ed Miliband told the BBC the law was "not working" but stopped short of calling for a new privacy law.
He said Parliament had to balance the freedom of the press and the ability to report things in the public interest but said: "Clearly the law needs to be looked at."
The head of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), Stephen Abell, said the prime minister wanted to encourage more people to use the watchdog rather than resort to the courts.
"We shouldn't lose the fact that the PCC operates a pre-publication system, which is accessible to a member of the public on a 24-hour basis, which often leads to stories not being published without concerns about freedom of expression and the howls of newspaper editors," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.
Meanwhile, Mr Grieve has said he is not actively seeking contempt proceedings against the Scottish Sunday Herald.
It ran a front page showing an image of a man whose eyes were covered with a black bar featuring the word "censored".
Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, said injunctions were becoming "impractical" and England's courts were out of step.
'Abuse while playing'
In another case brought by a separate footballer, known to the court as TSE, a High Court judge ruled on Monday that comments on Twitter about the private life of a famous person did not mean there should be no injunction preventing newspapers from publishing stories about him.
Giving his reasons for agreeing an injunction in the case of the footballer alleged to have had an adulterous affair, Mr Justice Tugendhat said the court did not grant injunctions which would be futile.
"But the fact these publications have occurred does not mean there should be no injunctions in this case."
He accepted the arguments put by the footballer's legal team that it would have a devastating effect on his marriage, his wife, and particularly their children.
Footballers, about whom such stories were written, he said, were often subjected to abuse while they were playing.