19 May 2011

Fred Goodwin anonymity ruling lifted after Lords revelations

An order granting anonymity to Sir Fred Goodwin is lifted at the High Court after a Peer revealed details of an injunction taken out by the former bank boss regarding an alleged extra-marital affair.

Fred Goodwin anonymity ruling lifted after Lords reveal

The High Court on Thursday partially lifted a gagging order brought by Sir Fred Goodwin after details of an injunction were made public by a Lib Dem peer.

Protected by Parliamentary privilege – meaning MPs and Peers can speak freely without the threat of prosecution – Lord Stoneham referred to details of the injunction in the House of Lords.

He said: “Every taxpayer has a direct public interest in the events leading up to the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland, so how can it be right for a super-injunction to hide the alleged relationship between Sir Fred Goodwin and a senior colleague?

“If true, it would be a serious breach of corporate governance and not even the Financial Services Authority would be allowed to know about it.”

Justice Minister Lord McNally replied: “I do not think it is proper for me, from this dispatch box, to comment on individual cases, some of which are before the courts.”

Injunction lifted

After the exchange the order granting anonymity to the former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland was lifted. Sir Fred did not oppose the move for his identity to be revealed.

Mr Justice Tugendhat, sitting in London, varied the injunction to allow publication of Sir Fred’s name, but not details of the alleged relationship or the name of the woman said to be involved.

He also denied that a super-injunction had ever been issued. “For the avoidance of doubt no super-injunction was ever granted in this case. Nor was it ever asked for. The order which was granted in this case was a public order and it was explained in a public judgment.”

The judge also said there had never been any question of an injunction being granted to restrain publication of the fact that Sir Fred was a banker “nor could there have been”.

Sir Fred’s barrister, Hugh Tomlinson QC said it was accepted that the order should be varied to allow Sir Fred to be named because of what had been said in Parliament.

He told the judge there had no suggestion before the court at any stage that he had done “anything improper in his conduct of the business of the Royal Bank of Scotland”.

In March the Lib Dem MP John Hemming used Parliamentary privilege to claim that Sir Fred, chief executive of the RBS before it was nationalised, had taken out a “super-injunction”, although he did not reveal any details.

The Prime Minister has previously said he is “uneasy” about the use of super-injunctions.

David Cameron questioned whether judges should be effectively creating a privacy law without the involvement of Parliament.

In May the names of several celebrities alleged to have taken out super-injunctions were published on Twitter.

A number of those named, including Jemima Khan, vehemently denied the allegations.