I am the law

Regular readers of this blog will know that the normal fare on here concerns life as an expat in Strasbourg, only rarely are my eyes lifted onto higher things.  Today is one of those days when I look up from Strasbourg.  Reports state that a writ has been obtained by the legal firm Carter-Ruck (Known as Carter-Fuck in Private Eye) to prevent the Guardian newspaper reporting a question tabled in Parliament for answer.  The question, which I repeat below seems to be concerned with a report regarding tax avoidance schemes by a company, Trafigura, who have been at the centre of allegations concerning the dumping of toxic waste in Ivory Coast:

61
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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.
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As usually happens when people resort to the law to try and shut something up, it has resulted in a lot more coverage for the item with it being published by Guido, Iain Dale, and JTO, together no doubt with hundreds of other bloggers – I say that because I haven’t made any effort to check exactly how many other bloggers have written about this but I hope it is at least hundreds.  Iain Dale says that the matter relates to this story and repeats this from Next Left:

“To veer off at a tangent, for some reason, that short report reminded me that I was rather impressed by some more extensive reporting which the same David Leigh of the Guardian undertook over the oil company Trafigura‘s shocking oil spillage in the Ivory Coast, over which the company was widely report to have recently decided to offer a £30 million settlement to 31,000 people affected. I recall that it was an interesting story because of the way the newspaper worked closely with Newsnight

I found it offered considerably more for the reader to get one’s teeth into than another Guardian report over Barclays tax affairs, where a gagging order led to several documents being removed from the internet, in theory and no doubt in practice too.

Meanwhile, Guido Fawkes is among those playing the favourite backbencher in Hansard game, flagging up a rather good question from Paul Farrelly MP, of Newcastle under Lyme, and a very good man, as I recall from briefly overlapping with him as colleagues at The Observer where he was City Editor prior to be elected to Parliament in 2001.

His guess, and your guess, are certainly as good as or better than mine. But barking randomly up various trees has its limits.

So I would be rather heavily in favour of The Guardian getting the provisions of the 1688 Bill of Rights back in place so we might also find out the news of what our Parliamentary representatives are discussing on our behalf.”

I wouldn’t have known about the item in the Guardian and the dumping of waste in Ivory Coast by Trafigura if this attempt to prevent the Guardian publicising the question in Parliament.  I also wonder what the judge was on?  It has been taught for hundreds of years that what is said in Parliament attracts privilege, which also applies to the reporting of what is said, something reasserted as recently as the early 1970s.  All-in-all it seems like an own goal by Carter-Ruck and the judiciary are once again showing themselves up to be a rest-home for eccentrics.

UPDATE: I have just received the following comment: “38 Degrees are currently running a campaign on this. Take action now by emailing your MP and asking them to take a stand to stop this happening again in the future. Take action now, it only takes 2 minuits. Go to:

http://www.38degrees.org.uk/stop-the-gag

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One Response to “I am the law”

  1. lauraO Says:

    38 Degrees are currently running a campaign on this. Take action now by emailing your MP and asking them to take a stand to stop this happening again in the future. Take action now, it only takes 2 mins. Go to:

    http://www.38degrees.org.uk/stop-the-gag

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