The rumpus over cash for honours has brought about an astonishing 48 hours for media lawyers. Friday’s injunction against the BBC was lifted at 2pm today, several hours after The Guardian hit the streets with its follow-up on the affair.
The Lawyer understands that the BBC’s in-house legal team advised that since its best recourse in any libel action would be to rely on the Reynolds defence, the journalists had to give adequate notification – which inevitably tipped off the Met. See story.
This reasoning didn’t stop The Guardian from pursuing the story about the alleged actions of Downing Street officials during the police inquiry. The Attorney General’s application for an injunction against The Guardian last night failed when it became apparent the presses were already running.
It was a spectacularly ballsy legal strategy on the part of the newspaper’s in-house team, which reckoned on there being no real precedent for pyjama injunctions once the papers were already being printed.
So were the BBC’s lawyers simply running scared in a post-Hutton world? “The lawyers didn’t bottle it,” says a BBC source. “We knew that because we were first we would [more likely] get injuncted.”
First-mover advantage? Disadvantage, more like.