Parliament, the judiciary and the media were on a collision course tonight as Ryan Giggs was named as the married footballer at the centre of a controversial privacy case 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 reality TV star Imogen 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.
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 on Sunday, showing his face with his eyes blacked out and the word “censored” written over the top.