Privacy cases on the rise after year of injunctions

The row over the use of injunctions has prompted a significant jump in the number of privacy cases being pursued in the High Court.

Research by legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell shows that 43 privacy cases were launched in the year to 31 May 2010, compared with 50 in the period from June 2010 to 31 May 2011.

Public figures in particular are increasingly using privacy arguments in court actions to protect their right to privacy, with such cases more than doubling from nine in 2010 to 24 in the past year.

Anonymity orders – or ‘injunctions’- have been put under the spotlight in 2011 with court orders being broken by social platforms such as Twitter. In June, Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC was forced to issue a warning to Twitter followers who break anonymised court orders (7 June 2011).

Among the high-profile figures to get caught up in the injunction row was Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs, known by the courts as CTB until Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to reveal his identity (6 June 2011).

The Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger announced a year-long review into the use of injunctions in May (30 May 2011). The move followed revelations that the former RBS head Fred Goodwin had managed to secure an injunction preventing press reports about an alleged affair (9 June 2011).

Almost half (48 per cent) of the privacy cases launched in the last year were brought by high-profile figures, Sweet & Maxwell said.

Editor Jonathan Cooper said: “There’s growing concern that the UK courts are granting too many injunctions to high profile individuals to the detriment of free speech.”

He continued: “With the success of these injunctions becoming ever more apparent, a lot of law firms have been advising their clients to cast the terms of an anonymous injunction as widely as possible.”