Thursday, 27 October 2011

Jeremy Clarkson comes out

So, Jeremy Clarkson was the mystery TV personality who took out an injunction to prevent his ex-wife claiming that the two had had an affair. Did you know? Do you care? Is Jeremy Clarkson's career now doomed as a result of these revelations? Scarcely? Is he exposed as a hypocrite? Not really. But he has wasted a lot of money on lawyers to no permanent effect, as he himself now happily admits.

They are incredibly expensive to maintain and there's an assumption of guilt about which you can do nothing because I'm as bound by it as everybody else.. I wanted to get rid of it and it will save us a hell of a lot of heartache.

Because not only did the injuction prevent his ex-wife from talking about him, it also prevented him from talking about his ex-wife.

Clarkson now says that he regretted his action from the day he took out the injunction. He's changed his tune a bit. Back in May - gosh, how long ago that sounds - he opined that without injunctions for the rich and famous there would be a "charter for lunatics and blackmailers to do and say pretty well whatever took their fancy."

Among these "blackmailers" perhaps he counts his ex-wife. The court report of the case, which was heard last October, refers to Clarkson as AMM and his ex-wife Alexandra Hill as HXW. Mr Justice Tugendhat goes on at some length about blackmail:

As appears from this passage, where a claimant alleges he is being blackmailed, the court may be faced with limited choices. One choice is to refuse an anonymity order. But in that case, if the blackmailer's threat is to be thwarted, the court will restrict publication of the information which is the subject matter of the action. The alternative is for the court to grant the anonymity order. The court can then permit publication of some of the facts about the action, including the allegation of blackmail. If the court adopts that course, then the anonymity order should suffice to prevent publication of the fact that it is the applicant who has been blackmailed.

Note how "allegation of blackmail" becomes "the fact that it is the applicant who has been blackmailed" without regard to whether or not this serious criminal offence has actually been proved. Alexandra Hall has not in fact been charged with, or even it would seem investigated by the police for, the crime of blackmail. Amazing how insouciantly the word gets bandied about. And she denied in the Independent earlier this year, writing anonymously:

It's being accused of blackmail that's the worst part. I've never been in trouble with the law, apart from the odd driving offence. Yet I'm having to defend myself, and prove that I didn't blackmail him. Why do the judges take their word for it, without asking me?

The man who won this order considered that to even have my existence made public would be detrimental to his career. But what about my life? What about my rights to freedom of expression?

What indeed? Hall's marriage to Clarkson lasted for less than two years, but the relationship as a whole endured for close to a decade. He was her first serious boyfriend, and their time together represents a signifcant proportion of both their lives. Of course she should have a right to talk about her life. Privacy judges value far too lightly the right to free expression under Article 10. As it happens, Clarkson denies Hall's claim that they slept together more recently; but that isn't a matter of privacy but of libel, should he wish to sue. But it looks as though Clarkson has finished, for the time being, with the lawyers.

"She is now free to go and flog her story and Max Clifford, who's handling it, will be trying to do a deal," he says. Publish and be damned, as they used to say. Very sensible. Clarkson has realised, not before time, that the world is not about to come crashing about his ears.