a ship chartered by Trafigura dumped a cargo of toxic waste
MESSRS Carter-Fuck, London’s most vainglorious solicitors, tout for business by boasting of their matchless skills in “reputation management”. But after the Trafigura affair, which has put them on a par with Nick Griffin and Jan Moir as the most reviled people in Britain, potential clients may wonder about that.
If Carter-Fuck can’t even manage its own reputation, why should anyone else entrust theirs to it?
At last Wednesday’s Commons debate on super-injunctions, MPs queued up to denounce the Carter-Fuckwits. “In past years, people who sought to gag parliament or were held to have behaved inappropriately in relation to parliament were brought before the Bar of the House and in some cases sent to prison,” thundered Denis MacShane MP. “Do we not need to see Carter-Ruck’s partners before the Bar of the House to apologise publicly for this attempt to suborn parliamentary democracy?”
Still striving to defend the indefensible, Adam Tudor of Carter-Fuck issued a press release. “Despite suggestions to the contrary in certain quarters,” he harrumphed, “neither Trafigura nor Carter-Ruck has at any time improperly sought to stifle or restrict debate in parliament or the reporting thereof.”
Yeah, right. Perhaps he’s already forgotten the letter he sent to the Guardian on 12 October after learning that the paper intended to report a parliamentary question tabled by Paul Farrelly MP which mentioned the secret Trafigura injunction. “The threatened publication referring to the existence of the injunction would… place the Guardian in contempt of court,” he wrote. “Accordingly, please confirm by immediate return that the publications threatened will not take place.” What was that, if not an attempt to stifle the reporting of parliamentary proceedings? It certainly stifled the Guardian, at least for a day – though the Eye went ahead and published the MP’s question anyway
Silencing the Speaker
Later that week Tudor sent a letter to the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, with copies to all MPs and peers, repeating his claim that the Guardian would have been in breach of the injunction had it quoted Farrelly’s question, even though it was on the order paper and on parliament’s website. He also argued that a parliamentary debate on the subject should not go ahead because the case concerning the injunction was still sub judice. If that wasn’t an attempt to “restrict debate in Parliament”, what is? Ah yes, Tudor would say, but it wasn’t “improper”. Furious MPs thought otherwise. A day later, Carter-Fuck bowed to the inevitable and agreed to lift the injunction.
Ironically none of this would have happened but for Carter-Fuck’s decision to go for a super-injunction, whose very existence cannot be reported. When Farrelly submitted his question, the clerks in the table office did their customary checks on high court records to see if the case was sub judice, in which case they would have ruled it out of order. They found no record of the Trafigura injunction because it had been “anonymised” as RJW &
‘Censorship by judicial process’
Carter-Fuck can expect plenty more grief over coming weeks, as the select committee on culture, media and sport prepares its report on libel and privacy. Giving evidence to the committee in May, alongside Ian Hislop, Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian said that he hadn’t been hit with the kind of chilling super-injunction that the Eye’s editor called “censorship by judicial process”.
Rusbridger has now written to the committee chairman, John Whittingdale MP, confessing that he spoke too soon: “This process of casually granting these secrecy orders appears to be spreading.” When Trafigura obtained its high court order, he reveals, the judge was told that the Guardian must be muzzled from publishing anything about the injunction because otherwise it might run a story accusing the company of, er, muzzling the press.
Rusbridger appends a chronology of the “prolonged campaign of legal harassment” by Carter-Fuck against the Grauniad and its reporter David Leigh, but his brief summary omits some of the liveliest exchanges. According to other documents seen by the Eye, in May this year Leigh sent Tudor an email accusing them of bullying and misleading the Guardian. “We shall continue to put allegations to you prior to possible publication, in order to continue to behave as responsible journalists,” Leigh concluded. “But will you behave as responsible solicitors?”
Tudor fired off a letter to Rusbridger protesting at this implicit slur on his firm’s integrity, which “verges on the hysterical”. It was, he wailed, “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” that a journalist “can feel it even remotely appropriate to behave in this manner”.
Worse was to come. In August, one of Carter-Fuck’s spies told them about a Powerpoint presentation given by Leigh at the Centre for Investigative Journalism’s summer school. Apparently he had shown the audience photographs of three Carter-Fuck partners (including Adam Tudor) and described them as “bullies”. He had then told the audience: “I don’t want you to think I’m being completely unbalanced when I say I hate these people. But I do hate these particular people.”
“What this episode illustrates yet again,” Tudor complained to the Guardian legal department, “is that Mr Leigh’s actions are not those of a rational, responsible journalist.” Henceforth, he declared, Carter-Fuck would not engage in correspondence with Leigh, since “we can no longer be expected to tolerate his increasingly unreasonable (and, at times, abusive) approach”. Poor diddums!