Olswang has failed in its bid to overturn a temporary gagging order made against its client The Guardian.

Paul Lomas

Freshfields Bruckhaus Derringer partner Paul Lomas (pictured), acting for Barclays Bank, secured the injunction against the newspaper on Tuesday after it published seven documents that outlined details of an alleged tax avoidance scheme at the bank (18 March).

Arguing on behalf of Barclays in the High Court today Brick Court’s Charles Hollander QC said the documents were “confidential and privileged”, adding: “It’s one thing to provide documents to the regulatory bodies nominated by Parliament. It’s quite another to submit them to the public.”

The Guardian argued that the Barclays scheme, known as Project Knight, was put together in a $4bn deal with US bank Branch Banking & Trust Co.

Hugh Tomlinson QC of Matrix Chambers’ argued on behalf of The Guardian that the documents were already in the public domain as the newspaper had published them before the emergency gagging order had been passed.

He said: “The quality of confidentiality is lost if the information is available from other public sources.”

Finding for Barclays, Mr Justice Blake said that The Guardian should be able to make use of the substance of the leaked documents, but that “does not mean journalists should have complete freedom to publish confidential documents released in a breach of duty”.

Blake J said that The Guardian was not entitled to publish the full documents under the Human Rights Act and that journalists need to consider whether what they choose to print is in the public interest while taking account of the sensitivity of data.

In a statement the newspaper said: “The Guardian continues to believe that tax avoidance is a matter of high public and political interest and we’ll continue to revisit these issues and encourage the debate.”

Olswang partner Geraldine Prowdler instructed Tomlinson for The Guardian.