Campaigners for reform of Britain's privacy laws have expressed hope that Andrew Marr’s dramatic volte-face yesterday over an injunction that he had taken out to prevent the reporting of his extramarital affair would compel judges to hesitate before granting further gagging orders.
Lawyers said that injunctions obtained by other celebrities could now be tested in the courts.
The BBC presenter admitted to being “embarrassed” and “uneasy” after hiding behind an injunction over the reporting of his affair with a journalist with whom he believed he had fathered a child.
“I did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists,” he said.
Index on Censorship — fighting what it sees as a growing threat to Press freedom in the form of the use of injunctions — said it hoped that the Marr case would help change public opinion on the issue.
The Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, is due to report next month on the use of injunctions and super-injunctions (which ban the reporting of the existence of an injunction) having headed a committee that has been examining the matter for a year.
Padraig Reidy, news editor at Index on Censorship, said: “For someone as prominent and respected as Andrew Marr to not just say he was abandoning his own super-injunction, but say that he felt there was too much of a culture of privacy in the courts does suggest that we may see a shift in public opinion towards the view that injunctions are overused and unfair.”
There are believed to be about 30 gagging orders in existence and in the past few days have been granted to a married man in the entertainment industry and a Premier League footballer.
The Ministry of Justice says it is unable to put a figure on the number of current injunctions and has instructed its chief statistician to identify a method of collating reliable data.