Fred Goodwin's injunction prevented him being identified as a banker
Fred Goodwin's injunction prevented him being identified as a banker REUTERS

The media should be informed before gagging orders are brought against them, a report by top judges says.

The year-long inquiry began after a debate over the injunction granted to England football captain John Terry to prevent the media publicising his affair with a teammate's ex-girlfriend.

A year later, there are still tensions over media freedom and the right to privacy. Media groups and politicians have expressed concern about a perceived rise in gagging orders which are being used to suppress information of genuine public interest rather than as a legitimate tool to protect someone's privacy.

It suggested that the media should be alerted to applications for such injunctions, subject to a confidentiality agreement.

"Where privacy and confidentiality are involved, a degree of secrecy is often necessary to do justice," David Neuberger, Master of the Rolls, the second most senior judge in England and Wales, told a briefing.

"But where secrecy is ordered it should only be to the extent strictly necessary to achieve the interests of justice."

The use of injunctions has attracted criticism after the gagging order brought by former RBS chief Sir Fred Goodwin was revealed by a politician using the right of parliamentary privilege.

Social media sites like Twitter have also been used to expose confidential information contained in gagging orders.

Neuberger said the internet had "by no means the same degree of intrusion into privacy as the story being emblazoned on the front pages of newspapers", "which people trust more".

But he warned that modern technology was "totally out of control" and other ways to bring sites like Twitter under control should be considered.

The Neuberger review did not deal with whether Britain needed an explicit privacy law, which is to be dealt with in parliament. Prime Minister David Cameron has said previously he was "a little uneasy" about the way injunctions were being used.

But Justice Secretary Ken Clarke welcomed the report.

"It contains important recommendations which will ensure that injunctions are only granted where strictly necessary," he said in a statement. "The government is considering the wider issues around privacy and freedom of expression."