Ryan Giggs named by MP as Imogen Thomas injunction footballer
Published 16:12 23/05/11 By MirrorFootball
Manchester United's Ryan Giggs has been named in Parliament as the footballer at the centre of the 'superinjuction' Twitter row involving reality TV star and model Imogen Thomas.
Parliament, the judiciary and the media were on a collision course tonight as Giggs was named even though judges refused to lift the gagging order.
Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to name the Manchester United star as the Premier League player who took out an injunction over his relationship with Thomas.
But even after Prime Minister David Cameron said that he, "like everybody else", knew the player's name, and Commons Speaker John Bercow confirmed reports of the proceedings would be protected by privilege, the High Court rejected two bids by the Sun's lawyers to lift the gagging order.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hemming said: "With about 75,000 people having named Ryan Giggs on Twitter, it is obviously impracticable to imprison them all."
Mr Bercow immediately took the MP to task over his comments, telling him that "occasions such as this are occasions for raising the issues of principle involved, not seeking to flout for whatever purpose".
Earlier Mr Cameron told ITV1's Daybreak that banning newspapers from naming such stars while the information was widely available was both "unsustainable" and "unfair".
"What I've said in the past is the danger is that judgments are effectively writing a new law, which is what Parliament is meant to do," he said.
He has written to the chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, Sir Alan Beith, and the chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, John Whittingdale, asking them to convene a joint committee of both houses to consider the issues of privacy and the use of injunctions.
It is hoped it will report by the autumn, though it will be for the committee to determine its own timeframe.
Earlier, Mr Whittingdale told MPs: "You would virtually have to be living in an igloo not to know the identity of at least one Premier League footballer who has obtained an injunction.
"The actions by thousands of people of posting details of this on Twitter are in danger of making the law look an ass."
The row came to a head after the Sunday Herald newspaper in Scotland published a thinly-concealed front page photograph of Giggs yesterday, showing his face with his eyes blacked out and the word "censored" written over the top.
Mr Hemming explained that he decided to name Giggs to prevent people being jailed for gossiping about him.
The Birmingham Yardley MP said in a statement: "When he sued Twitter, it was clear what he was doing. He was going after the ordinary people who have been gossiping about him on Twitter.
"To prosecute someone for contempt of court is quite a serious step. It comes with an up to two-year jail sentence.
"I have spoken to people of ordinary means who have received these injunctions.
"I have also spoken to people who faced jailing in secret hearings and who were subject to anonymity orders themselves.
"This is a really oppressive system.
"So on one side you have a footballer upset that people are gossiping about him and on the other side you have ordinary people facing the threats of a two-year jail sentence.
"I think it is wrong that he has the power to do this, but at least if he is going to do this, let him be held to account.
"Before he sued Twitter, there was no public interest in naming him.
"However, when his lawyers decided to go on a 'search and destroy' against the ordinary people who gossip on Twitter, he had taken a step that should not be done anonymously.
"In Burma they jail people for criticising the king and people here are up in arms.
"Here they threaten to jail people for criticising a footballer and the lawyers say I should not name the footballer."
Last week, Mr Hemming said a review by senior judges of the use of injunctions was an "attempt to gag the media in discussing the proceedings in parliament" and was "a retrograde step".
Asked whether the Prime Minister thought Mr Hemming was wrong to use parliamentary privilege to name the footballer at the centre of the row, David Cameron's official spokesman said: "I don't think it is for the Government to comment on individual cases."
The Sun newspaper challenged the order twice today, saying "it is time for the courts to do the right thing and end a situation where readers of some newspapers but not others are allowed to know the worst-kept secret in the country".
But, rejecting the newspaper's latest attempt to lift the anonymity order, Mr Justice Tugendhat said it was important to remember the law of privacy was not concerned solely with secret information, but also with intrusion and harassment.
The name "has been repeated thousands of times on the internet, and News Group Newspapers now want to join in", the judge said.
There was no immediate comment from Manchester United.
Watch the video of Hemming in Parliament below: