Press ban in tatters as UK celebrity threesome story spreads online

Wed Apr 20, 2016 12:35pm EDT
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By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) - If you are rich and famous, how can you stop embarrassing stories about your private life from becoming public?

In England, the answer is to obtain an injunction -- a court order banning media from publishing private information against your will.

But the days of the privacy injunction, better known to London newspapers as a gagging order, may be numbered after a celebrity's attempt to use one to suppress details of an extra-marital threesome backfired spectacularly.

Britain's Supreme Court will hold a hearing on Thursday at the end of which it will decide whether the ban should remain in place.

The case shows the problems for those seeking to use the law to stop revelations in a world where information travels across jurisdictions at the click of a mouse and attempts to stifle news can have the opposite effect of attracting attention.

The person obtained an injunction in January covering England and Wales and kept a lid on the news story for 11 weeks, but on April 6 a widely read U.S. magazine ran it and within minutes it was all over the Internet.

Online searches for the names of those involved rose, Twitter was abuzz and media in many countries, including Scotland -- a separate legal jurisdiction from England and Wales -- published the story.

This infuriated the London newspapers, which were still banned from naming the protagonists, even though it was now easy for anyone interested to find out the details online.   Continued...

A general view shows the library of the United Kingdom's new Supreme Court building in Westminster, central London September 14, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Winning/File Photo