The term “super-injunction” conjures up an image of something mighty powerful – a superhero amongst court orders? In simple terms an injunction is a Court order ordering you to do or not to do something, usually with dire consequences if you fail to observe it. Injunctions are granted in carefully controlled circumstances by the High Court. The super-injunction – as it has become popularly known – is a draconian order which can stop the reporting of a court case –and even stop the reporting of the fact that an injunction has been granted by the Courts at all.
However the "super-injunction" may not be so super after all. Following concerns expressed by, amongst others, the Culture, Media and Sports Committee, these powerful orders will now be reviewed by the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, alongside other senior judges, media group representatives and media lawyers starting on 4 May.
The super-injunction first hit the public consciousness last year when an order for a super-injunction by oil firm Trafigura attempted to stop the reporting of questions being asked in Parliament about the dumping of toxic waste in West Africa, sparking an intense debate about parliamentary freedom of speech. The Culture, Media and Sports Committee report states that they “strongly urge that a way is found to limit the use of super-injunctions as far as is possible and to make clear that they are not intended to fetter the fundamental rights of the press to report the proceedings of Parliament.”
The super-injunction even kicked the world of football earlier this year when John Terry's attempts to super-injunct the reporting of his affair with the ex-girlfriend of a team-mate eventually fell foul of the mark amidst much press furore about freedom of the media. In that case it was felt that Terry’s overwhelming concern in applying for the order was not to upset his sponsors. Unsurprisingly it was felt that that was not an outcome which the Court was there to help achieve.
We will be watching developments with keen interest from early May.