How the courts tried to silence accusations against Sir Philip Green

The sexually and racially abusive businessman has been granted anonymity by UK courts, reigniting a debate about use of confidentiality agreements or injunctions to silence accusations of wrongdoing.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
How the courts tried to silence accusations against Sir Philip Green - NewsMavens
Hands holding newspaper. Pexels

Why this story matters:

A leading businessman, who was later revealed to be Sir Philip Green, was granted an injunction by the Court of Appeal, preventing the revelation of his alleged sexual harassment and racial abuse of staff.

Alleged victims were subject to non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence them, just like Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's targets.

The Telegraph newspaper was also gagged from name him, though it published a story about the injunction on its front page.

The ruling is being seen as controversial not only because it allowed a sexual predator to do as he pleased and remain anonymous, but because a newspaper was stopped from telling the full story, which many believe is in the public interest.

"NDAs have become weaponized," said Zelda Perkins, Weinstein’s former aide who in 2017 broke an NDA from the late 1990s to accuse the producer of sexual harassment. She said it was “ridiculous” that the newspaper had been prevented from reporting the businessman's alleged abuse.

But the case's judge, Sir Terence Etherton, said that publishing details about the abuse in The Telegraph could cause "immediate, substantial and possibly irreversible harm to all of the Claimants".

Essentially, the court ruled that the confidentiality of the non-disclosure agreements was more important than freedom of the press to reveal wrongdoings.

Details from the story:

  • A British businessman accused of sexual and racial abuse was granted an injunction that stops his name being revealed in public by the Court of Appeal.
  • Granting the temporary injunction, the judge ruled that the businessman was protected because at least five of his alleged victims had signed NDAs and received payouts.
  • The ruling overturned a High Court case that ruled that publication of the allegations would be overwhelmingly in the public interest and contribute to debate on sexual harassment in a democratic society.
  • According to the Telegraph, the businessman spent close to £500,000 in fees for seven lawyers to fight publication of the piece.
  • He used NDAs to silence victims, a common method of keeping company secrets or behaviours quiet in the business world and other industries. However, campaigners are calling for the use of NDAs on sexual abuse victims to be stopped.
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated that she may implement restrictions on the use of NDAs to prevent abuse, but Parliament has yet to consider changes to the law.
  • The Telegraph said its silencing is expected to renew controversy about the use of injunctions to limit British press freedom and hide stories of misconduct from the public.
  • Using parliamentary privilege, Lord Hain revealed that the man accused was Sir Philip Green.
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