Have Celebrity Injunctions Become Virtually Impossible to Enforce?

The recently well publicised case of PJS v News Group Newspapers Ltd (‘NGN’) has seen the once powerful celebrity injunction – a court order preventing a party from doing something– appear to be of little use.

Here PJS, a well-known celebrity (PJS used to hide the party’s identity), requested that the court grant an injunction to prevent NGN from publishing a story about PJS’s private life in which he and the other parties involved would be named. The Court of Appeal granted the injunction in January 2016, preventing this story from being published as to do so would breach the injunction and this would trigger heavy consequences.

On 6 April 2016, however, a popular magazine in the USA published an account of PJS’s story and named all the parties involved. Consequently other publications in Scotland and Canada followed suit, as the injunction only applies to England and Wales.

This has created a situation whereby the English and Welsh press are prevented from publishing the story or identifying PJS, despite the fact that anyone in England or Wales can find the protected information by searching for one of the foreign publications online.

NGN has now asked for the injunction to be set aside given that it has been rendered useless by the easily accessible foreign publications with the result that PJS had lost his anonymity. Although the Court of Appeal agreed that the injunction should be set aside, PJS has taken the case to the Supreme Court in a final attempt to prevent publication in England and Wales.

This has brought the issue of public figures using injunctions and super injunctions – injunctions that are so secretive the injunction itself cannot be revealed – to gag the press under the spotlight. Is there any point in gagging the UK press when foreign publications remain free to publish whatever is protected by an injunction? Attempting to keep such stories secret has become nearly an impossible task in the internet age where information has never been spread so easily, or so rapidly. By gaining an injunction today, a party may create more interest in their story than there ever would have been if it was simply published.

Should the Supreme Court set aside the injunction this could severely weaken what was once a celebrity’s most powerful weapon. The same problem was faced by Ryan Giggs once he was named in Parliament as the man behind a super injunction in 2011. The dissemination of news today has never been so easy. The question is, will this make media injunctions too difficult to enforce?

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