Phone Hacking vs. Super Injunctions – which is worse?

The recent arrests and charges brought by the Police and Crown Prosecution Service, against Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson shows the seriousness in which the law enforcement authorities are taking the alleged issue of phone hacking by the ‘late’ News of the World.

A breach of privacy has previously been considered to have taken place in incidents concerning well-known footballers obtaining super injunctions to stop their extra marital dalliances from being published in the national media. However, the News of the World arrests shows that breaches of privacy can be so much more than civil breaches, turning very easily in to criminal offences.

The charges levied against Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson involve conspiracy to hack peoples phones i.e. an agreement between them and others that this course of dealing would be undertaken.. It would appear therefore that the CPS considers these hacking incidents to have been pre-planned and not just off the cuff actions, undertaken to chase a big story. This case, whatever its outcome, should go some way to increasing the way in which the right to privacy is considered in the social sphere, and the way it is viewed by the public i.e. not simply a means to gag the press via a super injunction.

We at Pinder Reaux have acted for celebrities who have had their private photos published online, rock stars who have had their life works ripped off by unscrupulous family members in books claiming to be ‘memoirs’, and those involved in the sports and media industry in maintaining their right to privacy. In the same breath we have also acted for persons who have had their phones hacked, their computers invaded by intrusive information gathering viruses, and their homes bugged.

Our clients would say they are both as equally as important as each other and we would agree.

However, it cannot help but be noticed that the possible reason that Ms. Brookes and Mr Coulson have been charged, is the same reason a footballer’s injunction gets so much interest, the fact that they are in the public light.

In truth, I hope that the Police take more attention of the ordinary person who has to suffer similar such breaches of privacy, now that these charges have been levied against Mr Coulson and Ms Brookes. However, I also hope that they do not end up being scapegoats, sacrificed to shift social consciousness.

John Spyrou

Media Law Expert

Pinder Reaux and Associates