April 26, 2011 11:11 am

Broadcaster drops gagging order on affair

Andrew Marr, the BBC broadcaster and former editor of The Independent, has abandoned an injunction he took out to stop publication of details of an affair he had with another political journalist, it was reported on Tuesday.

Mr Marr, 51, was quoted as saying that he was embarrassed by the injunction, originally framed in 2008 so that even its existence could not be reported, but said it had served a purpose in helping him keep his marriage together.

The question of so-called superinjunctions has become controversial in the UK, with David Cameron, the prime minister, saying that he felt uneasy that judges seemed to be introducing a de facto privacy law, something that was properly the role of parliament.

There are believed to be about 30 superinjunctions in place.

Mr Marr, one of the BBC’s most prominent journalists, took out the superinjunction to stop a newspaper revealing he had an illegitimate child born from a brief affair with a woman working in the political reporting team of another Fleet Street title.

Until it was successfully challenged by Private Eye, the satirical and campaigning magazine, the terms of the injunction banned publication even of the fact of a gagging order.

Last week, Private Eye challenged the full basis of the injunction.

Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, described the original injunction as “a touch hypocritical” in an interview on BBC radio on Tuesday. He said Mr Marr had previously written that judges should not make privacy law.

Mr Hislop said he did not rule out challenging other superinjunctions, but it was unlikely he would seek to overturn cases involving celebrities where there was no great journalistic merit to publishing the facts.

“We will try and pick cases where we think it is important to make the point,” Mr Hislop said.

After being approached by a reporter from the Daily Mail, Mr Marr was quoted as saying: “I know these injunctions are controversial, and the situation seems to be running out of control.”

The newspaper said he had told it he would no longer seek to prevent the story from being published.

It quoted him as saying: “I did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists. Am I embarrassed by it? Yes. Am I uneasy about it? Yes. But at the time there was a crisis in my marriage and I believed there was a young child involved.”

Mr Marr paid maintenance for a daughter born to the woman with whom he had an affair in 2001, until paternity tests showed he was not the father.

The Daily Mail quoted Mr Marr as saying: “I also had my own family to think about, and I believe this story was nobody else’s business. I still believe there was, under those circumstances, no legitimate public interest in it.”

He argued that there was a positive purpose to the legal bar he had imposed on reporting the story.

“The injunction allowed me and my family the time and space needed to repair and heal itself at a very difficult time.

“None of this has been particularly pleasant, nor am I proud of it, but we are still together as a family and I am delighted about that.

“Everybody involved has tried to deal with this in a grown-up manner.

“There is a case for privacy in a limited number of difficult situations, but then you have to move on. They shouldn’t be for ever and a proper sense of proportion is required.”

The original terms of the 2008 superinjunction were challenged by Private Eye in 2009 and relaxed so that it could be reported that Mr Marr had won the order, but not what the order concealed.

Detailed allegations have been circulating on the internet for at least three years, with certain blog sites naming the woman at the centre of the allegations.

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