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Joshua Rozenberg
Tuesday 13th October 2009
Is this Contempt of Court? Or Parliament?

The Guardian says it has been prevented from reporting Parliamentary proceedings for the first time. It does not say why. And it cannot say what is covered by the ban, except that it is a question on the order paper for answer this week and that the case involves the solicitors Carter-Ruck.

I have not tried ringing the Guardian or Carter-Ruck. But a quick search of the order paper for "Carter-Ruck" produces the following question:

61 
N

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.

(293006)

Is this the question that the Guardian is not allowed to publish? I have no idea.

Am in contempt of court for publishing it? I know that I am bound by any injunction of which I have notice. I infer that Carter-Ruck have obtained an injunction. But I have not seen the injunction and I have no idea whether or not it covers this parliamentary question. I do not see how I can be bound by an injunction that I have not seen and of whose contents I am unaware.

If Carter-Ruck see this post and choose to email me a copy of the injunction - [email protected] - I will, of course, comply with it.

But Alan Rusbridger is quite right to say:

"The media laws in this country increasingly place newspapers in a Kafkaesque world in which we cannot tell the public anything about information which is being suppressed, nor the proceedings which suppress it. It is doubly menacing when those restraints include the reporting of parliament itself."

This really has got to stop.

Update: This blog was posted shortly after 9.00 am. By lunchtime, it was confirmed that the question I quoted was, indeed, the question referred to in the Guardian.

During the evening, Carter-Ruck issued a statement accepting that the injunction it had obtained on behalf of Trafigura "would indeed have prevented the Guardian from reporting on the parliamentary question which had been tabled for later this week".

But the solicitors had never applied for an injunction that was intended to prevent publication of parliamentary proceedings.

So that's all right then.

 
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About Joshua Rozenberg

Joshua Rozenberg is an independent legal commentator who presents Law in Action on BBC Radio 4.

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