“Hopefully the days of the super-injunction are numbered, because it’s only a law that protects the rich.”
Max Clifford, celebrity publicist , Daybreak, May 24, 2011
FactCheck finds itself in the unusual position of factchecking PR to the stars, Max Clifford.
Mr Clifford represents Imogen Thomas of course, who is alleged to have had a relationship with footballer Ryan Giggs.
Mr Clifford said it was “easy” to call up a lawyer and take out an injunction to kill the chances of any spurious claims about his clients hitting the newsstands.
“It doesn’t make it right, though,” Mr Clifford conceded, “because it’s only for rich people.”
“You can get one in a matter of hours,” Mark Stephens, a senior media lawyer from Finers Stephens Innocent told us.
Media lawyer Amali de Silva from Wiggin, agreed: “In theory, you could walk in off the street and do it yourself.
“But that’s a very daunting prospect for people without the support of a lawyer,” she pointed out. “After all, if you are taking on a newspaper you will be up against their lawyers.”
Mr Clifford has said that injunctions cost about £50,000 depending on the barrister.
There’s the matter of a small court fee that is dealt with by the clerk. Ryan Giggs’ lawyers would have applied for a High Court non-money claim on his behalf, which costs £465 to issue, HM Courts and Tribunal Service told FactCheck.
But after that, legal costs soar. Mr Stephens said taking out an injunction would usually require £50,000 upfront. He would then advise his client to set aside a further budget of £75,000- £100,000 to cover possible court revisits.
He estimates Mr Giggs would have spent somewhere between £150,000 and £200,000 on his attempt to gag the media.
Ms de Silva put the total cost of the case, including repeated visits to court, at a similar mark. She said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if it had cost more than 150,000, as they’ve been to court a few times.
But it has been has a spectacular failure, with Mr Giggs’ name hitting not just the red tops at home, but headlines across the globe.
There are thought to be another 80 people with injunctions, who - if outed – could also have wasted thousands of pounds. “I think all the ones I’m aware of – and that’s probably most of them – are worried,” Mr Clifford said.
So are the days of the injunction numbered? Lord Judge thinks the answer could be to notify the media of injunction applications and allow us into the hearings.
Mr Stephens foresees two stumbling blocks with this; firstly that most are heard outside court hours on the telephone. And secondly, he pointed out: “Which editor is going to send someone along when they can’t even report it?”
The world of injunctions is undoubtedly a playground for the wealthy. Mr Stephens told FactCheck: “Anyone middle class or of moderate, or even comfortable, means couldn’t afford it.”
If you’re setting one up in a matter of hours and paying £50,000 up front, that is clearly not a privilege the masses could even begin to think about – let alone shelling out a possible further £100,000 in costs.
Super-injunctions weren’t invented for celebrities, they were set up by the Attorney General on behalf of the Government to protect notorious criminals – to protect their true identities from a public that might bray for blood.
But they’ve evolved, extending the anonymity to block the tabloids from the lives of the rich and famous.
The masses can’t afford injunctions; yet what are the chances of our indiscretions being splashed on the front page of The Sun?
By Emma Thelwell