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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

As Ryan Giggs is named in Parliament as cheating star after weeks of legal farce, MPs launch a defiant message

By Steve Doughty

-Shock in the Commons as footballer's name finally revealed by MP
-Media reveals Giggs is the star with injunction as Twitter goes crazy
-High Court rejects two attempts in one day to lift gagging order

Outed: Ryan Giggs, yesterday, celebrating with his two children Zach and Libby while Imogen Thomas was spotted leaving London today

Ryan Giggs paid the price of his secrecy battle yesterday as Parliament launched a dramatic fightback against the judiciary.

Days ago, judges had suggested MPs could lose their centuries-old right to speak freely at Westminster.

But yesterday – hours after a court insisted his name must be kept secret – Giggs was identified in the House by a campaigning Liberal Democrat backbencher.

Scroll down to see a video of the dramatic events inside the House of Commons today

MP John Hemming used Parliamentary privilege to name Giggs as the footballer behind the injunction

John Hemming’s intervention, applauded by fellow MPs, signalled a looming constitutional crisis and the end of the Manchester United star’s fight to maintain his reputation as a faithful husband – despite an alleged affair with model Imogen Thomas.

Less than 24 hours earlier, 37-year-old Giggs had presented his wife Stacey and two young children to a 76,000-strong crowd at Old Trafford and a global television audience.

He has spent at least £150,000 on lawyers to keep the affair secret – even though tens of thousands of computer users have posted his name on Twitter and other internet sites.

Yesterday morning David Cameron admitted he knew who the mystery footballer was after Giggs’s name had been published in newspapers around the world, including in Scotland.

The secrecy battle over the footballer’s alleged affair is growing into a full-scale clash between Parliament and the courts.

Last Friday – in a landmark report on privacy law – Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger threatened contempt proceedings against journalists who report attempts by MPs and peers to circumvent privacy injunctions by raising matters in Parliament.

Even after Giggs was named in the Commons, a judge passed a fresh order banning anyone from saying who he was.

Mr Justice Tugendhat insisted the order should remain in force even though by then it was being reported by every news website, including the BBC’s, and by the Press Association news agency.

This meant that those who flouted it risked a prison sentence.

But the Commons’ highest authority, the Speaker, John Bercow, ruled that Giggs could in fact be named.

Speaker John Bercow immediately leapt out of his seat and rebuked Mr Hemming in an effort to protect the Manchester United player's identity

The Prime Minister made the comments about the gagging orders when he appeared on ITV's Daybreak show today. Here he is pictured with Christine Bleakley and Adrian Chiles

Labour MP Thomas Docherty asked Mr Bercow if those reporting the Commons had the same privileges of free speech as MPs. The Speaker declared: ‘The answer to that is yes.’
Yesterday’s events followed weeks of growing tension over privacy law, which has been developed by judges on the back of Labour’s Human Rights Act.

Giggs was given his gagging order on April 14 by Mr Justice Eady, the judge most closely associated with the development of privacy law.

Spotlight: Former Big Brother star Imogen, left, shopping with a friend over the weekend

Last week in Parliament, Lib Dem Lord Stoneham destroyed the privacy injunction which had prevented the public and the City regulator from knowing that disgraced Royal Bank of Scotland chief Sir Fred Goodwin had an affair with a senior colleague as his bank was collapsing at a cost to the public of £45billion.

Disastrously, Giggs then decided to instruct his lawyers to try to silence Twitter, which was being used by thousands to name him in connection with Miss Thomas. The move led directly to yesterday’s exposure.

Mr Hemming said last night: ‘When he sued Twitter it was clear what he was doing. He was going after the ordinary people who have been gossiping about him on Twitter. To prosecute someone for contempt of court is quite a serious step. It comes with up to two years in jail. This is a really oppressive system.’

The MP added: ‘Before he sued Twitter there was no public interest in naming him. However, when his lawyers decided to go on a “search and destroy” against the ordinary people who gossip on Twitter he had taken a step that should not be done anonymously.’

Mr Hemming made his intervention shortly after Mr Justice Eady had in the High Court refused to allow newpapers to name Giggs despite the fact that most of the country knew his name.

Before he was interrupted by the Speaker, the MP said: ‘With about 75,000 people having named Ryan Giggs on Twitter, it is obviously impracticable to imprison them all ...’

Within hours of the player launching his legal challenge thousands of tweets about him and the relationship appeared on the site. Here are some of them with the player's name blacked out

Left: The graph shows the number of people tweeting the footballer's name since Friday reached 56,000 by mid-afternoon. Right: The graph shows online searches for the footballer from across the world. Note the dramatic rise after news broke on Friday that he was taking action against Twitter

Left: This graph shows online searches from within the UK since May 13. Again, from a fairly constant level it suddenly shoots up on Friday. Right: Again measuring from May 13th, the worldwide interest in the player surges towards the end of the month



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