Published by: Steven Smith

Celebrity Injunction Saga

You may be wondering what on earth a “Celebrity Injunction” is given all the hype in the media.

An injunction is a Court Order requiring a party to either do something or refrain from doing something. The current celebrity injunction “doing the rounds” prevents the media in England and Wales from publishing details of a famous couple’s private life. The matter has gone through the courts, including two appeals, and on 19 May 2016 the Supreme Court ruled the injunction should stay in place.

This Judgment should not be confused with the Court having decided on the merits of the claim. A party cannot just apply for an injunction: there must be a corresponding “substantive cause of action” and here that is likely to be the celebrity couple suing for misuse of confidential information. There will ultimately be a trial at which the claim will be heard and the Court will decide if the injunction should be made permanent. At the moment, it is temporary – pending trial.

The arguments in Court have been whether or not the injunction should be lifted (the trial will go ahead, but the identity of the parties would be known). The Court of Appeal ruled that it should on the basis that the identity of the couple has become widely known in the USA and Scotland and that the injunction has had little practical use. However, on 19 May 2016 the Supreme Court judged that whilst the identity of the couple may be widely known outside England and Wales, if the injunction were to be lifted, there would be additional “intensive” coverage. In these circumstances, the Court has to balance the rights of the individual to a private life against the right to a freedom of expression.

Whilst the celebrity injunction saga may well generate inches in the gossip columns, injunctions also have valuable commercial use. For example, a party is able to obtain an injunction from the Court to prevent trespass, nuisance, defamatory comments, as well as dealing with goods which may have been handed over, but for which the other party has not paid. It is, in many respects, the most draconian remedy that the Court can order and an interim injunction is awarded, without the court having undertaken a full analysis of the merits of the claim. However, it is one of the most useful and effective weapons in the litigation arsenal and, if granted, can protect a party’s commercial interest.