Taking on the media is never a good idea if you happen to be a member of the judiciary. While judges are required to be fair, logical and impartial, reporters and commentators are often inaccurate, opinionated and driven more by commercial needs than by lofty ideals. That much seems well understood by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, who is currently discouraging his senior colleagues from giving media interviews on sensitive topics. But he seems to have felt the need to make up for this judicial reticence by agreeing to give off-the-cuff responses to media questions last Friday at the launch of Lord Neuberger’s report on super-injunctions. This was a measured and sensible report, apparently drafted by John Sorabji, legal secretary to the master of the rolls, and printed on recycled, austerity-style paper to show how frugal the judges now are. And the two senior judges might have assumed that media organisations would have welcomed the report’s conclusion that restrictions on the media’s right to report court hearings should be allowed only when strictly necessary. But that assumption ignores two media imperatives. First, the newspapers’ commercial interests are best served if there are no restrictions at all. Second, a story along the lines of ‘judges agree that newspapers should be allowed to publish quite a lot really’ won’t attract many readers. So, reporters looked around for a conflict to generate, settling first on the idea of a row between the judges and parliament. It looked a promising source of disharmony. Only a day earlier, the recently ennobled Lib Dem peer Lord Stoneham had used parliamentary privilege to complain that a ‘super-injunction’ had been used to hide ‘the alleged relationship between Sir Fred Goodwin and a senior colleague’, this allowing the nature of the injuncted information to be reported for the first time. Stoneham was wrong, of course. As the Neuberger committee patiently explained, a super-injunction is one that bans reporting of its very existence; there were never any restrictions on reporting the Goodwin injunction or the judge’s reasons for granting it, provided the former RBS boss was not identified as the person who had obtained it. Asked for a quote, the lord chief justice told reporters dryly that it was ‘wonderful’ for them if an MP or peer stood up in parliament and breached a court order on anonymity. ‘But you do need to think,’ Judge continued, ‘whether it is a very good idea for our law-makers to be, in effect, flouting a court order just because they disagree with the order — or, for that matter, because they disagree with the law of privacy which parliament has created.’ Quite right, of course, but perhaps not the most tactful thing that Judge could have said. The media’s second line of attack involved Twitter. I had asked Neuberger why newspapers should respect injunctions that were widely flouted on the internet. The master of the rolls accepted that this was a problem for the print media. It was Judge, though, who allowed his frustrations to show through. ‘Modern technology is totally out of control,’ he said. ‘Anybody can put anything on it.’ Again, true; but inconsistent with the lord chief’s warning that ‘people who, in effect, peddle lies about others by using modern technology may one day be brought under control.’ The real problem is that Judge allowed himself to be portrayed as someone with a personal interest in restricting freedom of speech. That’s not the case, of course, but the newspapers seem to have got it into their heads that every victory for the press in getting the terms of an injunction relaxed is a defeat for the judiciary. By the start of this week, it had all got a whole lot worse. First, a Scottish Sunday newspaper identified Ryan Giggs as the married footballer who had been granted an anonymised injunction banning media reports of his alleged relationship with Imogen Thomas, described as a ‘reality TV star’. Next, just as Judge had predicted, an MP decided to name Giggs in the Commons. One by one, the mainstream media organisations decided that they were safe to use the footballer’s name. By then, it might have been wise for the courts to have lifted the court order. But Mr Justice Tugendhat concluded that the injunction was needed, more than ever, to protect the claimant and his family from intrusion into their private and family life. That might be true, but allowing Giggs to be identified could not have made matters much worse for him. Maintaining the injunction also gave the newspapers an excuse to depict the judges as out of touch. John Hemming’s identification of Giggs came in response to an announcement by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, that a joint parliamentary committee would be established to advise the government on how ‘current arrangements can be improved’. This could mean anything. Instead, parliament should decide whether footballers and other entertainers who cheat on their wives may have their names kept out of the newspapers. My own view is that we are too generous to these people, although I can see stronger arguments if blackmail is involved. I am not impressed by the argument that privacy is necessary to protect miscreants’ children: you can’t claim anonymity if you are convicted of murder, rape or getting your wife to take your penalty points. Privacy is a fundamental right and deserves to be respected. So does freedom of expression. But the judges would benefit from some parliamentary guidance on where to draw the line.
(Field Level Media) These playoff coordinates are familiar territory for the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. The parallels between this Western Conference semifinal series and the last time the Warriors and Rockets met in the playoffs came to the forefront during the third quarter of Game 5, when Golden State forward Kevin Durant suffered a right calf strain and was subsequently sidelined.The 2018 Western Conference finals turned when the Rockets lost point guard Chris Paul for the series to a hamstring injury, sustained in the waning moments of Game 5. Houston proved able to hold on for a win in that contest and secured a 3-2 series lead, but the Warriors went on to claim the series with a home win in Game 6 and another in Game 7 on the road.Now it is the Rockets who are healthy, facing a series deficit, with Game 6 slated for today at Toyota Center in Houston. Golden State secured a 104-99 win with Durant unavailable in the fourth quarter Wednesday. After an MRI on Thursday, he was ruled out for Game 6 and Sunday’s Game 7, should the Rockets extend the series to a decisive seventh game by following the pattern set by the home team claiming each game in this series.“He’s been the best player in the NBA in the playoffs. He’s been phenomenal,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday night of Durant, who leads the Warriors in scoring this postseason at 34.2 points per game.“Well, we’ll just find somebody on the bench who can give us 35 points, two blocks and 11 boards and nine assists,” he added, facetiously, about Friday’s game plan. “It’s obviously a huge loss. Our team has a lot of confidence,” Kerr said. “We trust each other. They’ve won championships together. So we come out and give it our best shot.”What the Warriors did Wednesday night was revert to their championship form pre-Durant. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 19 of the Warriors’ 32 points in the fourth period, with Thompson feeding Draymond Green for a critical 3-pointer at the 3:22 mark before converting a layup with 4.1 seconds left to secure the victory.Durant, the two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP, has buoyed the Warriors with his isolation brilliance in these playoffs; without him, Golden State was closer to its vintage, egalitarian style. How the Rockets adjust defensively in Game 6 will determine if their season again comes to an end at the hands of the Warriors. With Durant unexpectedly lost, Kerr leaned on reserve center Kevin Looney at critical moments, and Looney played a vital role in Golden State winning the rebounding battle once again. The Warriors grabbed 12 offensive boards and finished with a plus-6 advantage on field-goal attempts, staples of their close victories in Games 1 and 2.“It varies. Every game it’s something different,” Rockets guard James Harden said. “(In Game 5), they got more offensive rebounds. They got a lot more open looks off those offensive rebounds, and that’s what it is. In the games that we won, they didn’t get those opportunities.“In Game 6, we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to rebound the basketball as a team and not leak out, and try to limit their easy points, their slip opportunities, their open 3s and things like that.” Additionally, the Rockets have to recall the task that comes from playing without a key contributor.The Warriors were able to take advantage last postseason as Paul watched Games 6 and 7 from the bench. That the Rockets failed to do the same in Game 5, despite the advantage that came with Durant hobbled, left plenty questioning if they eased off the gas after he departed.“I don’t think we ever relaxed,” Paul said. “We’ve just got to be better.”