Tugendhat J refuses to lift order on Fred Goodwin’s affair

Matrix Chambers’ Hugh Tomlinson QC has won a partial High Court victory for the woman said to have had an affair with RBS CEO Sir Fred Goodwin, after Mr Justice Tugendhat refused to lift the order banning publication of her name but did permit publication of her occupation.

Sir Fred Goodwin
Sir Fred Goodwin

4-5 Gray’s Inn Square barrister Richard Spearman QC was instructed by Farrer & Co partner Julian Pike on behalf of News Group Newspapers (NGN), publishers of The Sun. NGN was attempting to have the injunction, which prevents the media from publishing the name of the woman Goodwin had a relationship with, lifted.

Tomlinson, instructed by Olswang partner Geraldine Proudler, appeared before Tugendhat J on behalf of the woman, who is known only as VBN.

The case has already been before the High Court several times. The injunction was first granted on 4 March. On 19 May Tugendhat J lifted the order banning publication of Goodwin’s name, following his identification in the House of Lords, but maintained the injunction keeping VBN’s identity secret.

In today’s judgment Tugendhat J agreed to vary the injunction to permit publication of VBN’s job description, but not her name. He said that publication of her name would be a “significant intrusion into her private and family life” but publishing details of her job was an important element in the story and the story itself was a matter of “legitimate public interest”.

Tugendhat J made it clear that VBN’s name would probably be published online despite the injunction.

“If my purpose was to keep her name confidential, that would render the injunction futile, and I would not adopt the course I have decided upon. Courts do not grant injunctions that would be futile,” he said.

“But the degree of intrusion into a person’s private life which is caused by internet publications is different from the degree of intrusion caused by print and broadcast media. Important though this story is, there are very many people who will not take the trouble to find out from VBN’s job description what her name is.”

Tugendhat J did not reveal VBN’s occupation as he said the order could still be subject to an appeal.