The British legal concept known as the super injunction is probably one of the biggest squelches of free speech since book burning and as such I am opposed to it incontrovertibly.

Building on the nation's status as a top destination for libel tourism, the super injunction is a relatively new judicial construct that goes above and beyond what an ordinary injunction would in the following ways:

  • First, there's the ordinarily injunctive part of it - a Court order, with penal notice ("If you breach the terms of this order you will be guilty of contempt of court and may be sent to prison"), forbidding someone from, or requiring them to, do certain things. This part of the injunction is only valid once it is served upon the person in question, like all other injunctions. Usually this will be forbidding the person (usually a media outlet) from publishing allegedly defamatory statements.
  • But next, there is also a provision which forbids everyone else, ever, who knows of these alleged untruths from also publishing them, and there is no requirement for service. This is still, however, not unprecedented; this goes back to the Michael Douglas case against Hello! and the wedding snaps.
  • The bit that makes an injunction super, though, is this - the person against whom the injunction is granted is forbidden from saying that an injunction has been granted, as is anyone else who knows of the existence of the super injunction. Once again, the requirement for service does not apply to this provision.

Needless to say, this amounts to a judicially approved and legally binding form of omertá which can be obtained at the drop of a hat in the form of a without notice application to the Court. I also don't need to tell you that, like libel tourism in general, super injunctions are of great interest to people who want to cover up their unpleasant, stupid, or massively criminal activity. The fact that it is a contempt of court to report the existence of a super injunction helps these people as it prevents the suspicion that would attach to one's name if it was reported that one had injuncted the press from reporting on the allegedly untrue happening; it helps avoid the "no smoke without fire" situation.

So if, by way of example, you are an unscrupulous multinational corporation who is being sued for dumping vast quantities of toxic waste, illegally, on the Ivory Coast in populated areas, and the press finds out that during this dumping operation you not only knew what you were doing was naughty, but that you knew it was damaging the locals' health on an epic scale, and had commissioned a report saying as much, a super injunction is handy for brushing all this into a dark corner - a dark corner in a rat-infested basement with a sign on the door saying, "BEWARE OF THE TIGER."

Something also of extreme worrisomeness about super injunctions, though, is at the other end of the scale from this type of affair. In December 2009, you will of course be aware that a certain golfer named Eldrick Tont Woods had a series of marital indiscretions and ran into a fire hydrant after his mistress attacked his car with a golf club. He was able to obtain a super injunction when the Sun came into possession of photographs allegedly showing Mr Woods getting his end away with one of his mistresses, which was in turn reported on Wikileaks (although with Wikileaks being currently down you will not be able to read the text of the super injunction at present). The fact that there was little damage to his reputation that these would have engendered on account of the incident with the fire hydrant that had just passed (which had already hurt it badly) did not seem to trouble Mr Justice Eady, who granted the super injunction as drafted upon application. The fact that the judiciary are willing to grant super-injunctions on such trivial matters is just as alarming as it indicates that applying for them is set to become standard practice.

So that's a super injunction. Let's kill them before it's too late, mm?

UPDATE - Thanks to some creative mirroring, here is the text of that Tiger Woods super injunction: http://mirror.infoboj.eu/wiki/leak/tiger-woods-injunction-2009.pdf

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