Neuberger report says media should get prior warning of injunctions

Newspapers should be given advance warning of injunction applications but there should be no fast track appeal system to challenge their existence, the Master of the Rolls (MR) Lord Neuberger has concluded.

Lord Neuberger
Lord Neuberger

The MR launched his high-level review into super-injunctions in April last year in the wake of a growing public perception that they were being abused.

The report, Super-Injunctions, Anonymised Injunctions and Open Justice, is aimed at clarifying the judicial position on super-injunctions.

It reveals that only two super-injunctions – legal orders that bar individuals from publicising or informing others of their existence – have been granted since the John Terry case in January last year.

Such injunctions, the MR says, should only be granted when it is “absolutely necessary” and should be regularly reviewed by the court.

The report states: “As they incorporate derogations from the principle of open justice, super-injunctions and anonymised injunctions can only be granted when they’re strictly necessary. They cannot be granted so as to become in practice permanent.”

New practice guidelines will be issued clarifying the procedure for applying for an interim injunction, which will be renamed ‘interim non-disclosure orders’.

Consideration should also be given to a data collection system for all non-disclosure orders and the data should be published annually.

Parliamentarians should be better informed about the existence of such court orders to help them avoid breaking court orders, but, according to the MR, parliamentary privilege “is an absolute privilege and is of the highest constitutional importance”.

However, the MR stops short of wading into the row over the Human Rights Act, stating that it would have been “inappropriate” for the committee to have considered substantive law reform, stressing that that is a matter for parliament.

Lawyers have welcomed the report saying it adds balance to the roaring debate over injunctions.

Lewis Silkin head of defamation Rod Dadak said: “Lord Neuberger’s proposal is necessary and pragmatic and should go some way in pacifying the media. His recommendations reflect society’s concerns over secrecy in relation to justice and an increasingly proactive judiciary who are anxious to be seen to be acting fairly.”