A High Court judge yesterday dramatically lifted a gagging order preventing journalists saying married banker Fred Goodwin had a “sexual relationship” after a politician used parliamentary privilege to name the millionaire.
Mr Justice Tugendhat said the media could now name Sir Fred, former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, after the banker’s identity was revealed in the House of Lords by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Stoneham.
The judge said reporters could reveal that Sir Fred (52), took legal action earlier this year after discovering that a tabloid newspaper planned to publish a story about the affair with a “senior colleague” at the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The lifting of the ban came as the Government said it planned to instruct courts to give priority to the right to freedom of expression when hearing privacy cases.
The man who revealed the affair, backbench Liberal Democrat John Hemming, said: “This is a victory for freedom of speech. The judiciary are
beginning to recognise which way the wind is blowing, and one can only hope
that they change tack.
“A combination of the internet and parliamentary privilege means that anybody
using a very expensive court process to conceal information about themselves
will have to think carefully about whether it is counter-productive.”
Sir Fred, nicknamed Fred “the shred” for his management style, presided over
the near collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which needed a £20 billion
bail-out by the taxpayer.
In March this year he discovered a newspaper was threatening to exposed an
alleged affair with a colleague.
Sir Fred, who has been married for 20 years, went straight to the High Court
where Mr Justice Richard Henriques granted him a super-injunction. Under the
terms of the order, in which he was referred to only as MNB, the media were
banned from even identifying him as a “banker”.