Last week, the Daily Mail has a front-page headline that said, “Sir Fred’s affair: why we do have a right to know”. This is a sentiment that I’ve heard a lot when people are talking about super-injunctions. People have the right to know this, people have the right to know that, and so on.
But none of us have a right to know anything about any private individual. Our rights are just not the issue. The issue is about whether someone who knows something about someone else is free to say it. It’s all about the individual’s right to freedom of speech.
And I take a pretty hard line on this: the law should not be used to prohibit anyone from speaking the truth. Yes, there is a strong case for preventing the media reporting information about private individuals that has been obtained illegally. But beyond that, freedom of speech trumps other considerations.
Of course, I couldn’t care less which footballer has been sleeping with which z-list celebrity. And I’d much prefer to live in a society where other people didn’t care either. But my tastes don’t matter. Freedom of speech does. End of story.
Ultimately, Eamonn is right: if you live in the public eye, you shouldn’t do anything that you’re not prepared to see reported in the News of the World. It might not be fair. It might be a sign of cultural degradation. But that’s the way it is. The lawyers don’t get a say in the matter.