As Lord Peter Hain congratulates himself on using parliamentary privilege to scupper an interim injunction in ongoing legal proceedings, let’s hope he took a moment to think about the two complainants who did not want the information being made public.
I’m not taking a position on the merits of the case. Not enough is known. But I do feel quite strongly that a court hearing all the evidence and balancing the interests of all affected is probably better placed to judge the merits than a politician.
That hearing had not yet taken place. It was due to, and the Court of Appeal recognised the urgency when it granted the interim injunction by directing a speedy full hearing, where a final decision could be made.
That hearing is now largely pointless.
I keep emphasising interim because it’s the word that many, including the Telegraph’s news reports, are eager to minimise. But it’s crucial. No permanent injunction had been granted. The Telegraph still had the chance to argue the merits before a full court hearing.
It defeats the point of a claim in which someone’s seeking an injunction if the publisher publishes the story while the parties are waiting for a trial date. So in certain instances the courts will grant an interim injunction, preventing publication until the final determination.
It’s one thing if legal proceedings have concluded for a politician to wade in and frustrate the court’s ruling using parliamentary privilege. I’m not mad keen, but there’s a case to be argued. However to interrupt ongoing proceedings, assuming you know best, is rather arrogant.
There is understandable disquiet at the notion of the courts prioritising contract law over the public interest in exposing bad behaviour and abuses of power. But it’s important to note that it’s not just the company involved - two complainants don’t want the details published either.
Perhaps Lord Hain will do those affected the courtesy of publishing full written reasons for his ruling, based on the evidence he has considered, the applicable law and his assessment of the competing interests of the various persons involved.
The Secret Barrister is a junior barrister specialising in criminal law