What is a 'gagging order'?


A ‘gagging order’ is a colloquialism for a privacy injunction, which is an order that may be granted by the high court in relation to certain parties. This would be to prevent particular personal information about an individual or a company being broadcasted or published.

There are various levels of orders. For instance, sometimes the judgments may be public or published, but the names of the parties involved are withheld.

If you want to obtain a gagging order against someone who plans to release personal information about you, the key is to act quickly.

Types of privacy injunction

The so-called ‘super injunction’ is a privacy injunction with more strict terms. For example, a super injunction may imply terms to the order in which disclosure to a third party that the privacy injunction itself exists would itself be a breach of the order.

In addition, there is the injunction ‘contra mundum’, which is intended to be a permanent privacy injunction that applies to the ‘whole world’, rather than only applying to national newspapers and television programmes.

Privacy injunctions or ‘gagging orders’ may be issued to protect confidentiality or legal professional privilege, or the private information of people who are not public figures in any respect. In addition, such orders are also sought occasionally by celebrities and sports personalities, to prevent publication of details about their private lives by the popular press.

Should I make a claim for defamation or apply for an injunction?

Applying for a privacy injunction may be seen as an alternative to suing for defamation, as a libel or slander claim can only be launched once the offending statement has been made and disseminated to a third party.  

However, this is only likely to succeed if there is prior knowledge that a newspaper or television programme, for example, intends to publish the private details.

Therefore, applications for privacy injunctions often involve instances of blackmail, in which the applicant has prior warning that such material is in existence.

Defamation is the publication or broadcast of a statement that lowers a person’s reputation in the minds of right-thinking people.

Defamation claims may take two forms:

  • Libel is a more permanent form of defamation, occurring through the written word, television programmes or the electronic media
  • Slander is a more transitory form of defamation, occurring through the spoken word or signs, such as gestures

For extra information about this, see our section on the differences between libel and slander.

If you believe that defamatory material or private information concerning you is about to be published or broadcast, your best course of action would be to seek advice from a specialist privacy lawyer, in order to consider the legal responses available.

Do you need to stop some information from becoming public knowledge? Contact Law can recommend a specialist privacy lawyer, with expertise in obtaining injunctions. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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