Monday, 12 October 2009

Contempt of democracy

The Guardian have been blocked from reporting on the proceedings of Parliament due to an injunction imposed by the courts after action from Carter-Ruck solicitors, the firm specialising in keeping embarrassing facts about their clients out of the public eye.


Carter-Ruck act for Trafigura, a company specialising in "the sourcing and trading of crude oil, petroleum products, renewable energies, metals, metal ores and concentrates for industrial consumers."


Greenpeace has been campaigning to bring to light all the issues surrounding Trafigura's out of court settlement following an alleged dumping of toxic waste off the Ivory Coast. Last Month a United Nations report (the Minton Report) suggested a strong link between at least 15 deaths and the dumping of toxic waste in Ivory Coast. A link that is strongly denied by Trafigura.


It said in a statement after the deal was reached:



“Today’s settlement completely vindicates the position held by Trafigura since the beginning of this litigation. Throughout that time, the company has been the target of an enormous volume of misinformed and defamatory attacks in the media, by Greenpeace and, most recently, the UN Special Rapporteur, who unfortunately carried out no proper analysis of the scientific evidence and rejected Trafigura’s repeated offers to share that evidence with him.”
Now Carter-Ruck have taken the extraordinary step of taking out an injunction against the Guardian from reporting on Parliamentary proceedings. The Guardian cannot even say what the matter relates to, only that Carter-Ruck are the instructing solicitors. A totally bizarre gagging order when anyone can go onto the www.parliament.uk site and find the following question tabled by a Labour MP:
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.
This case has serious implications for the ability of the press to report on Parliamentary proceedings and calls into question Lord Denning's ruling in the 1970s that "whatever comments are made in parliament" can be reported in newspapers without fear of contempt.


UPDATE

Carter-Ruck withdraw their injunction against the Guardian at the 11th hour. Victory to the "court of public opinion" and all the bloggers and twitterers!

Read the latest here.

8 comments:

  1. Thank you for filling in the details. It's a very worrying turn of events when big industry can interfere with the reporting of parliamentary proceedings. I would go so far as to say it's a very dark day indeed.

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  2. On another "dark day" for MPs in terms of the expenses story, it is easy to forget the vital role that Parliament plays in exposing issues like this and the role of the press in reporting on our nation's supreme democratic forum in a fearless fashion. The Courts should hang their heads in shame for allowing this order. A Court of law is where the truth starts. Today it is where it is gagged.

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  3. Thanks for publicizing this Rene. This sordid episode is now huge on Twitter and other online media. What a pity that old established journals have been gagged, while free speech is the preserve of 21st century media like social networks.

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  4. These guys should be had for murder

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  5. Thanks for that Rene, A bad day for free speech.
    Good luck at the forthcoming GE!

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  6. So...here's a question. Will the discussion surrounding this question be blocked from being aired on BBC parliament? If so, will this not be rather conspicuous? If so, is that not going to ultimately increase the public outrage with respect to Trafigura's disgraceful behaviour?

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  7. Carter Ruck isn't dissimilar to Schillings. In fact at least three of Carter Ruck's lawyers come from Schillings.

    Schillings threatened to sue with respect to information that Ark Academies are connected to the Dutroux child murder scandal. There is an electronic link which connects European Investment Management (chairman Arpad Busson, also the chairman of ARK: Absolutte Return for Kids) to European Institute of Management.

    All of this information is now available on wikileaks, including recordings of electronic links, solicitors letters and related discuss pages which refutes the Schillings letters.

    So it just goes to show what these law firms are prepared to defend. There is no limit.

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  8. 38 Degrees are currently running a campaign on this. Take action now by emailing your MP and asking them to take a stand. Take action now, it only takes 2 mins. Go to:

    38degrees.org.uk/stop-the-gag

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