Wednesday 11 May 2011

Injunction tweeter faces jail -  MSN News - MSN UK

Injunction tweeter faces jail - MSN News - MSN UK

The Twitter user who published details of super-injunctions has rendered the orders "pointless" but will pay the penalty by going to jail, Media lawyer Mark Stephens has told MSN.
By revealing details of celebrities and sports personalities said to have gagged the press, some of which are believed to have been erroneous, the anonymous poster is in contempt of court.

The case is deemed so serious that a judge is certain to hand out the toughest penalty, Stephens said.

The lawyer said in an interview: "I think that super-injunctions are pretty pointless now. People have been named on the internet... In those circumstances, we are in the territory of Spy-Catcher [a 1980s case when the courts dropped a gagging order after secret information became widely published], there is no secrecy left and the courts are going to have to withdraw these injunctions."

Stephens warned that hiding behind a social media website will not protect people and that the law will seek out the individual responsible, rather than taking on Twitter or Facebook directly.

He added: "The person who has broken the injunction, the person who has put the information on the site stands in jeopardy of going to jail. I think the person who has done it on this occasion with the determined intent of breaking several super-injunctions is going to get a knock on the door from lawyers very soon and he will be well advised to pack his toothbrush because he is going to go straight from the Royal Courts of Justice, straight to Pentonville Jail.

"I think somebody will go to prison. This is down to somebody who is the beneficiary of a super-injunction, who has had it breached, to have their lawyers go off to one of the service providers, like MSN or Twitter, and asking them for details about the customer who is using that information.

"Their electronic fingerprints will be indelibly marked all over the files and as a result of that we will be able, in due course, to identify who the miscreant is and at that point they will be hauled up before the court and I think they can expect to go directly to jail and do not pass go."

The debate about super-injunctions - orders that ban the media not only from divulging details but even revealing that the restriction has been imposed - has prompted an intervention from the Prime Minister who said he is "uneasy" at the way in which the judges are in effect by-passing Parliament to introducing a privacy law.

However, Stephens told MSN that the UK's privacy rules cannot stand up to technological advancements and in particular to social media websites.

He said: "There has been a race for some time between the judiciary and technology and I think what this has demonstrated beyond any debate is that the judiciary has come comprehensively second; technology will always outwit the judiciary and that is really what the judges are struggling with. They are trying to keep up with technology but they are also hobbled because judges can only do what they can within their own country."

Stephens said that despite his support for free speech - Julian Assange is his most high-profile client- he will not condone civil disobedience, which sees people wilfully breaking court orders.

He told MSN: "As a lawyer I believe in the rule of law. Personally I don't believe that super-injunctions are a good thing; I think they are inappropriate for the British legal system. But, for good or ill, we have and we have to play by the rules.

"If you don't think a particular super-injunction should have been granted, then you go to court and you ask for it to be revoked. You either make your arguments and you persuade the judge, or you don't. I don't think there is a place for civil disobedience of this scale."

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