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Monday, April 18, 2011

The recourse to law

Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemmings has argued that a new breed of gagging order is preventing miscarriages of justice from being investigated. Speaking to the Telegraph, Mr. Hemmings said the rising tide of injunctions granted by the courts are threatening to contravene the Magna Carta:

The MP has launched an inquiry into "excessive and unlawful court secrecy" and will put his evidence before the Commons Justice Select Committee.

The new order to which he refers involves a pregnant woman caught up in a High Court battle with her local authority.

The order threatens her with imprisonment if she speaks to the media about her case. Journalists could also face jail for asking questions about the case.

Mr Hemming said: "This goes a step further than preventing people speaking out against injustice. It also puts any investigative journalist at risk if they ask any questions of a victim of a potential miscarriage of justice.

"I call this the 'Quaero injunction', after the Latin word 'to seek'. I don't think this should be allowed in English courts. It has the effect of preventing journalists from speaking to people subject to this injunction without a risk of the journalist going to jail. That is a recipe for hiding miscarriages of justice."

The paper says that so–called "super–injunctions", which prevent even the disclosure that reporting restrictions are in place, have now been joined by "hyper–injunctions", in which parties are forbidden from discussing their case with MPs or journalists.

The MP is to take his case to the Justice Select Committee in the hope that they will recommend changes to the law and the best of luck to him. Parliamentary privilege is an important bulwark against the suppression of civil liberties. We cannot allow it to be undermined in this way.
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