What is a 'gagging order'?


A ‘gagging order’ is a colloquialism for a privacy injunction, which is an order that may be granted by the high court in relation to certain parties, so as to prevent particular personal information about an individual or a company being broadcast or published. There are various levels of orders, for instance, sometimes the judgements may be public or published, but the names of the parties involved are withheld.

Further, there is the so-called super injunction, which is a privacy injunction with more strict terms. For example, a super injunction may imply terms to the order where disclosure to a third party that the privacy injunction exists, would itself be a breach of the order. In addition, there is the injunction contra mundum, which is intended to be a permanent privacy injunction that applies to the ‘whole world’, rather than only applying to national newspapers and television programmes.

Privacy injunctions or ‘gagging orders’ may be issued to protect confidentiality or legal professional privilege, or the private information of people who are not public figures in any respect. In addition, such orders are also sought occasionally by celebrities and sports personalities, to prevent publication of details about their private lives by the popular press.

Applying for a privacy injunction may be seen as an alternative to suing for defamation, as a libel or slander claim can only be launched once the offending statement has been made and disseminated to a third party.  However, this is only likely to succeed if there is prior knowledge that a newspaper or television programme, for example, intends to publish the private details. Therefore, applications for privacy injunctions often involve instances of blackmail, where the applicant has prior warning that such material is in existence.

Defamation is the publication or broadcast of a statement that lowers a person’s reputation in the minds of right-thinking people. Defamation claims may take two forms. Libel is a more permanent form of defamation, occurring through the written word, television programmes or the electronic media. Slander is a more transitory form of defamation, occurring through the spoken word or signs, such as gestures. If you believe that defamatory material or private information concerning you is about to be published or broadcast, your best course of action would be to seek advice from a specialist media lawyer, in order to consider the legal responses available.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on privacy law, Caven can put you in touch with a local privacy solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local privacy solicitors please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.

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