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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Liberal Democrat MP speaks out on superinjunctions

The Guardian reports that Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming, was stopped from raising the issue of superinjunctions on the floor of the House of Commons, after the Speaker ruled that the matter could only be raised in private because of fears that a public discussion would undermine strict parliamentary rules on cases that may be sub judice:

Hemming raised the issue of an injunction taken out by a claimant known as AMM, a married television personality who wants to protect details of his private life. This is not Marr.

The MP for Birmingham Yardley said to Bercow: "There is a tendency for people to issue injunctions on the basis of a claim that they intend to issue proceedings but not actually to issue those proceedings. One case such as that is AMM where no proceedings have been issued. One would presume therefore that never becomes sub judice."

Bercow told Hemming he should raise the matter at a private meeting he had offered the MP a few minutes earlier after he used parliamentary privilege to raise a separate child protection case. This related to a matter in the family division and was not one of the superinjunctions.

The Speaker told Hemming: "I don't intend to have a discussion on the floor of the house … on the issue of whether a particular case is or is not sub judice. One of my duties is to uphold the resolution of the house with respect to sub judice issue.

"I am perfectly prepared to discuss the issue privately with the honourable gentleman … I feel sure that the honourable gentleman will take his cue from the very clear response that I have just given him."

I am sure that that is reasonable but only if clear ground rules are laid down that ensure that Parliamentary privilege is not undermined by these injunctions. I think that there should also be a public interest test. Challenging Trafigura is one thing, but revealing the private life of a premiership footballer on the floor of the House of Commons quite another.
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