Attorney General Threatens Twitter Injunction Breakers

Twitter users could face prosecution for breaking privacy injunctions, Attorney General Dominic Grieve has warned

Attorney General Dominic Grieve has warned that he could personally take action against Twitter users who deliberately flout privacy injunctions.

Normally the burden would be on those who had taken out an injunction to initiate an action against someone who had broken it, but Grieve, who is the Government’s main legal adviser, said he would act himself if he thought it justified.

‘I will take action’

“I will take action if I think that my intervention is necessary in the public interest, to maintain the rule of law, proportionate and will achieve an end of upholding the rule of law,” he told BBC 4’s Law in Action programme. “It is not something, however, I particularly want to do.”

Grieve has the power to fine or imprison someone found to have deliberately flouted court orders.

Two weeks ago in the House of Commons Grieve warned that people who thought they could use modern communications technologies to “act with impunity” might well find themselves in for “a rude shock”.

Last month a Twitter user broke British privacy laws by tweeting a list of celebrities who – it was claimed – had taken out injunctions. That leak was designed to discredit the trend for celebrities taking out injunctions to protect their privacy. However, the list did have inaccuracies, after falsely naming a number of celebrities, including socialite Jemima Khan and TV presenter Gabby Logan, as being protected by injunctions.

From that list, thousands of Twitter users tweeted the name of married premiership footballer Ryan Giggs. Previously referred to as CTB, he was identified two weeks ago by Liberal Democrat John Hemming, who used parliamentary privilege to identify him in parliament.

Giggs had responded by to the initial leak with legal action against Twitter, demanding it reveal information on the “persons unknown regarding the publication of information on Twitter accounts”.

Twitter confirmed it is prepared to hand over the details of those users who recently breached super injunctions, if “legally required”.

When asked about the escalating dispute over gagging orders in the UK, Twitter’s newly appointed general manager of European operations, Tony Wang was quoted as saying in the Guardian newspaper: “Platforms should have responsibility not to defend the user, but to protect that user’s right to defend him or herself.”

Sugar imbroglio

Also in May it was revealed that Lord Alan Sugar, entrepreneur and lead judge on BBC television show the Apprentice, was ordered to remove a Twitter update, after a judge said it could unfairly influence jurors in an MP’s expenses trial.

Sugar posted the message on the micro-blogging site on the second day of the trial of Lord Taylor in January. The tweet speculated on whether Taylor would escape charges because he was a member of the Conservative party.

“Lord Taylor, Tory peer, in court over alleged expenses fiddle,” wrote Sugar. “Wonder if he will get off as he is a Tory compared to Labour MP who was sent to jail.”

The Labour MP referred to was David Chaytor, who pleaded guilty to expenses fraud in December and became the first member of parliament to be imprisoned for his offences. Sugar was ordered to delete the post, which he reportedly did immediately.

Although the incident occurred in January, legal restrictions prevented the media from reporting it at the time. These restrictions were lifted on Thursday following the conviction of ex-Conservative peer Lord Hanningfield – the last of the expenses trials.

Ironically for Lord Sugar, David Chaytor has now been freed on bail – with an electronic tag.