13 October 2009

The man who invented the London libel industry


The scourge of Private Eye is back in spirit - and the Guardian is the target

by Nigel Horne

The London law firm famous for helping clients as diverse as Sir James Goldsmith, Sir Elton John and Kevin Keegan deal with "intrusive and hostile" media inquiries down the years is back in the news - and this time it appears to have surpassed itself.

The firm is Carter-Ruck, whose founder was Peter Carter-Ruck, credited with inventing Britain's modern libel industry. For nearly 50 years he was the scourge of Private Eye and, at one time or another, virtually every newspaper in Fleet Street.

As a former colleague memorably put it after Carter-Ruck's death in 2003, "He did for freedom of speech what the Boston Strangler did for door-to-door salesmen."

But Carter-Ruck's spirit lives on and on Monday the firm that still bears his name managed to persuade a High Court judge to issue a gagging order of unprecedented power.

The order appears to overturn privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights. It also goes against a ruling by Lord Denning 30 years ago that "whatever comments are made in Parliament" can be reported without fear of contempt.

The target of the gagging order is the Guardian newspaper. What the paper has been prevented from reporting are the details of a written question posed by an MP in the House of Commons, and due to be answered by a minister later this week.

What makes the gagging order so bizarre in the view of political and media watchers commenting overnight, is that the MP's question is contained in the Commons order papers published yesterday, available as a matter of public record, and is also available on the Parliament website.




But as the Guardian itself reported last night:

"The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

"The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented ­ for the first time in memory ­ from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

"The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations."

When Peter Carter-Ruck (above) died just before Christmas 2003, one of his former colleagues, the libel lawyer David Hooper, wrote in the Guardian about the "chilling effect" Carter-Ruck had had on the media.

Hooper, who also came up with the memorable 'Boston Strangler' line, went on: "Until Carter-Ruck got his teeth into the libel law, actions were infrequent and inexpensive. But from the 1950s, Carter-Ruck became the leading libel lawyer and clients sought him out.

"He honed his menacing letters to encourage socialites to sue for imagined slights and fashion a weapon for politicians to suppress hostile stories. He preferred the bludgeon of the writ to the rather more effective call to an editor preferred by Lord Goodman.

"He established the idea that libel law was complicated and merited very high fees. In the process he became very rich. 'I like to bill the clients as the tears are flowing,' he told me."

Today, the two most senior partners at Carter-Ruck - in terms of longevity - are Andrew Stephenson and Alasdair Pepper.

Stephenson's write-up on the Carter-Ruck website says he "has considerable experience in advising individuals and corporations in handling intrusive or hostile media interest, and advising on reputational issues arising from governmental inquiries and investigations."

Pepper's biog boasts of a client list that includes "multinational and national companies, chairmen and managing directors from a range of industry sectors" and "some of the wealthiest businessmen in Britain".

source: The First Post Daily

From Press Gazette: Guardian gagged from reporting Parliament

«Press Gazette has no information about the details of The Guardian injunction - but notes that among the questions tabled in Commons order papers yesterday was one by Paul Farrelly MP: "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."»


Read as well: Carter Ruck's Guardian gag prompts call for urgent Commons debate


Related: D-Notice 5

Update

Gag on Guardian reporting MP's Trafigura question lifted

«The existence of a previously secret injunction against the media by oil traders Trafigura can now be revealed.

Within the past hour Trafigura's legal firm, Carter-Ruck, has abandoned an attempt to prevent the Guardian from reporting proceedings in parliament that revealed its existence.

Labour MP Paul Farrelly put down a question yesterday to the justice secretary, Jack Straw. It asked about the injunction obtained by "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".

The Guardian was due to appear at the High Court at 2pm to challenge Carter-Ruck's behaviour, but the firm has dropped its claim that to report parliament would be in contempt of court.» Read More



23 comments:

  1. They are pushing the UK into a REVOLUTION
    Unless my english friends take the streets,they are finished.

    "In the process he became very rich. "I like to bill the clients as the tears are flowing," he told me"

    S..O.A B....
    Beware and be aware of Blair,the mass murderer, and his ambition to be the President of the European Parliament......

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  2. "But Carter-Ruck's spirit lives on and on Monday the firm that still bears his name managed to persuade a High Court judge to issue a gagging order of unprecedented power."

    My question is, how exactly did the firm persuade a High Court Judge to issue such a gagging order?
    What power do Carter-Ruck hold over the British justice system? (and over the media as a result).

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  3. Its incredible that two 'ordinary' parents can wield the power of this law firm, when you look at their other clients!

    Of course, the McCanns are well connected - British society remains one of the most corrupt in the world, corruption with a veneer of 'honour' and an expensive suit.

    But is it the millionairre pseudo 'philanthropists' like barrow boy's, double glazing wide boys and single mother writers who supported them, the fund they run or some other source which gave them Carter Ruck?

    And what was the motive? Was it that they truly felt for the 'victims' of 'jonny foreigner' (xenophobia) or something else?

    Was it 'there but for the grace of god go I', as some 'media ladies' are likely to have thought, or was all this a side product, was the real reason something more akin to the usual foddder of the 'conspiracy theorists'?

    Gerry McCann certqnly features on many commitee's, involved in addressing drug related issues in sports and close to political life. Kate seems to be connected to Gordon Brown - through his brother John.

    Is there a body mouldering in its grave behind this somewhere?

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  4. These days more they try to hush things up the worse it gets...

    Trafigura tops list of Twitter trending topics

    Trafigura, one of the world's largest oil traders, was the most used word on the micro-blogging website Twitter this morning.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/6315133/Trafigura-tops-list-of-Twitter-trending-topics.html

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  5. Guardian gag lifted!!!!! Carter Ruck capitulated. Well done Guido and the blogosphere.

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  6. Yes, and those bodies mouldering in the grave include many thousands who gave their lives in two World Wars. The state of our country today, including the way that freedom of speech has gradually been eroded by clever and sophisticated lawyers, is an insult to the memories of those brave people. Carter Ruck and their ilk may be laughing all the way to the bank but what a trail of misery they leave in their wake. Just how do these excuses for human beings sleep at night?

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  7. Bloggers were active this morning in speculating about what lay behind the ban on the Guardian reporting parliamentary questions. Proposals being circulated online included plans for a protest outside the offices of Carter-Ruck.


    xxxx

    BLOGGERS do matter

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  8. Some time ago, a Dutch politician(Wilders) went to London to show a short film to the British parliament.
    The film is against Islam and against the presence of Muslims in Holland and in Europe.
    (I want to tell here that I'm not at all against Muslims nor Islam).
    Geert Wilders got arrested at a London airport and the police sent him back to Holland. He was considered as being Persona non Grata.
    Today a English judge gave Wilders permission to visit the UK and to show his film.
    The judge based his sentence on the freedom of speech.
    Finally democracy is re-starting in teh UK, although I don't like Wilders' ideas.

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  9. After more than 600 years of development I do not think that the British democratic system is about to cave in as a result of an unscrupulous firm of lawyers and their clients taking advantage of a momentary imbalance or loophole in the libel laws.

    This matter will be addressed, remedial action taken, free speech will prevail and justice will be served, of that we should be in no doubt.

    This process has only just begun:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/oct/13/guardian-gagged-parliamentary-question

    Yes, such things tend to take a long time in England - a country not given to revolutionary behaviour and knee-jerk reactions.

    Whilst this apparent lethargy can be extremely frustrating, impatient souls such as myself do well to remind themselves from time to time that it is a major factor upon which the stability of our democratic system is based.

    T4two

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  10. At 1300GMT the law firm of Carter Ruck had the gagging order lifted on the Guardian
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/oct/13/guardian-gagged-parliamentary-question

    At last sanity is seeming to prevail.

    Spook

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  11. Guardian ban now lifted according to Twitter gossip ~ the power of social media at its best

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hmm I am sure I read recently in a McC article that a CR lawyer, what was his name maybe Adam Tudof, said something like it was proving hard to shut down sites on the internet run by cranks looking for infamy!

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  13. Hahahaha, Guardian 1 Carter-Ruck 0

    Bet they won't be boasting of that result.
    Thankyou Joana, for highlighting this bunch of Legal thugs and thanks to T4two for informing us in the first place.

    Job well done. I'm off to congratulate The Guardian and gloat.
    SoJ

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  14. T4two,

    The problem with a 'slow burn' is that some injustices go on and on for generations.

    Good post though!

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  15. One Anon said freedom of speech has been eroded by "clever and sophisticated lawyers". I beg to differ -- there is nothing clever or sophisticated about that, far from it! Saying they are unscrupulous and greedy would still be charitable.

    Carter-Ruck lawyers may be rich in the pockets but extremely poor in morals. How they can derive job satisfactions from representating filthy rich individuals and corporations to regain their filthy and tattered reputations is anyone's guess.
    Carter Ruck's reputation is just like the clients they represent : awesome or whatever but contemptible a la fois.

    They thought they were taking on the Press, but they didnt reckon for the power of parliamentary members and internet inter alia twitter bloggers.
    No matter what persuasive reasons they used to convince the judge (a git) to issue that decision, they underestimated the power of people. IF they thought they could ride shod over a 5 centuries-old bill of rights without a kick-back in their face, they are over arrogant morons. The bump back to reality is their well deserved own goal. Hooray!!

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  16. I hope the Guardian exposes the name of the Judge who was allowed to be persuaded! The Judge should hang his/her head in shame in allowing libel lawyer (CR) to impede freedom of expression in that manner!

    Well done Guardian for not capitulating forcing them to CAVE IN.

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  17. The target was the Guardian - I would like to know if other papers, Telegraph, Independant or The Times exposed the written question.

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  18. About Medias I ask me a difficult question: a baby has been found in New Zealand, eight days after her disappearance, in a drain 30 meters from her home.
    The police, the medias (and the McCanns!) had quickly followed the trail of a kidnapping, an Asian woman was sought. How can it happen, in the psychosis of abduction created in the last 2 years, to look everywhere during a whole week for a little girl who was (I hope she died the same day) so close?

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  19. Excellent news.

    They've overstepped the mark this time. This can only help plant the idea that Carter-Ruck hate free speech and parliamentary democracy and are subverting our constitution.

    The fact that the McCanns have chosen to associate themselves with this bunch of constitutional demolition experts can only serve to raise questions in the public's minds about what they are up to.

    And that is all to the good.

    Taken together with the Sunday Express call for a proper UK police investigation, we see some signs for optimism.

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  20. the story about the Dutch politician is giving me hope.
    An English judge was showing his teeth today.

    Together with the Sunday Express and The Guardian these three incidents are a beginning of emancipation for freedom of speech.

    This will be a stimulation for everybody who fights for their right of free expression.

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  21. UK's Perestroyka has started.
    Congratulations!

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  22. At Prime Minister’s Questions today Tory MP Peter Bottomley's questioned the PM. He said no court should have granted the order against the Guardian which stopped the newspaper reporting a Parliamentary question. He asks the PM for copies of "secret injunctions" to be placed in the House of Commons and reviewed the next day at the Court of Appeal. Mr Brown said Justice Secretary Jack Straw was "looking into the issue" and hopes progress can be made to "clear up what is an unfortunate area of the law".

    ‘Looking into the issue’ – thank goodness for that, I feel I can sleep soundly at night now without fear!


    Mr B

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  23. [Quote//:.....Geert Wilders to show a short film to the British parliament.
    The film is against Islam and against the presence of Muslims in Holland and in Europe......//: end of quote]

    Not quite correct, Geert Wilders didnot make a film against islam, he only showed what islam IS. And that is forbidden obviously, though Mr Wilders got the footages from internet, real fotographs and real occurrences.
    Please note this failure, it gives a wrong impression of Geert Wilders, as many do.

    ReplyDelete