British papers can report Furnish's infidelity

Elton John and his partner David Furnish (both above).
Elton John and his partner David Furnish (both above).PHOTO: REUTERS

A court order that singer Elton John and his partner David Furnish secured to prevent British newspapers from reporting on Furnish's alleged extramarital sexual relations can be lifted, judges in London ruled on Monday, in a high-profile case that has sparked accusations of censorship.

But the judges added that Furnish, known as PJS in the case, could not be identified straightaway as he may be allowed to appeal against the decision in Britain's highest court.

The case has turned the spotlight on the tough system of injunctions in England and Wales, where celebrities can use court orders to prevent reporting of indiscretions in their private lives.

Although Furnish has already been identified on Twitter and the United States, Australia and Scotland - where the legal system is different - British newspapers have not yet been able to name him.

The case was brought by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun On Sunday tabloid, and a string of British newspapers have published articles condemning the ban as an impingement of press freedom.

This month, the Daily Mail ran a front-page story with the headline: "Why the law is an a**! Countless Americans can read about a married celebrity dad having a threesome with another couple. So why are our judges banning YOU from knowing his name?"

Yesterday, the Murdoch-owned news.com.au website named John and Furnish in a report with the introduction: "Get ready for a whole lot of disappointment, people, because the celebrity couple attempting to gag British media from covering the pair's sex scandal is... Elton John and David Furnish."

One of the judges, Lord Rupert Jackson, said in Monday's ruling that "knowledge of relevant matters" was "now so widespread" that confidentiality had "probably been lost", reported Agence France-Presse.

He added: "The court should not make orders which are ineffective."

In one of the few injunction cases where the celebrity's identity was made public, footballer Ryan Giggs obtained a court order to prevent the disclosure of an extra-marital affair.

But a lawmaker named him in the House of Commons in 2011, taking advantage of parliamentary privilege, which meant he would not be prosecuted for making Giggs' name public.

Judges are expected to decide later this week on whether or not Furnish can appeal against Monday's ruling, said Agence France-Presse.

If he is not allowed to, it is likely that his name would be made public shortly afterwards.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2016, with the headline 'British papers can report Furnish's infidelity'. Print Edition | Subscribe