It has been a great time for Gilbert and Sullivan, Whitehall farces and freedom of expression in the UK.
A number of judges have made asses of themselves. A new Lib Dem political hero has emerged – and there are not many of them –in the unlikely shape of John Hemming MP.
We can now utter the words Ryan Giggs, Giles Coren and Fred The Shred Goodwin without the fear of the secret police turning upon our doorsteps.
We have all had a good laugh and a great gossip but the more we learn the most important and serious the underlying issues become.
What sort of a judge – you might even say what sort of a human being –could make secrecy orders in favour of Trafigura over allegations of pollution in West Africa.
Who could have thought privacy for Sir Fred Goodwin and the role played by his mistress within the Royal Bank of Scotland was more important than finding out everything of relevance about why one of the UK’s leading banks had to be bailed out by the taxpayer.
The lady’s role seems highly relevant to such an understanding but alas we have to leave it there for now for fear of … two years in jail.
What sort of a judge would grant a super-injunction to a philandering multi-millionaire footballer on the apparent grounds that otherwise the poor dear might have been jeered from the terraces?
And if The Independent is right, the situation is even worse than previously imagined with more than 330 gagging orders issued in England over the past five years.
Some will be have been entirely legitimate to protect the identity of children or vulnerable adults.
According to The Independent the roll call included 28 men accused of extra-marital affairs and nine cases where convicted criminals were granted anonymity. There was even an injunction protecting the identity of a lawyer accused of possessing hardcore pornography.
All of this thankfully can be overturned by the internet and Twitter in particular.
The situation moved the otherwise admirable Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Judge to observe this week that technology was now out of control.
The obvious response is maybe, but so are many High Court judges.
Prime Minister David Cameron noted correctly that the present situation was unsustainable and that it was unfair that information that was true and widely available on the internet could not be reported in the press.
Confusion and muddle reigns and even House of Commons Speaker Bercow does not seems to have a firm grasp of the fact that absolute privilege protecting anything said on the floor of the House of Commons means precisely that.
Finding a solution to the current mess, farce, brouhaha will not be easy.
The Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger had an attempt and suggested in the interests of open justice reporters should be allowed to attend injunction hearings – but then added that of course they would not be allowed to report what they had heard.
Just occasionally journalists are inclined to gossip, particularly in licensed premises.
How long before such information reached the internet – 10 minutes ? Twenty?
A joint committee of the Houses of Parliament has been sent up and there have also been suggestions that the answer lies in strengthening the role of the Press Complaints Commission.
All of them will face problems.
The internet is a revolutionary, disruptive force of nature and many of its most established corporate players, including Twitter, are based in the US and will undoubtedly respect the First Amendment to the US constitution.
Just in case the words are not already engraved on your heart it says; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances”
It’s very tempting to send a copy to every High Court judge in the land for their edification.
But they will say they are only interpreting the law and adjudicating on the conflict between different articles of the convention on human rights promising both freedom of expression and the right to family life and privacy.
They should receive Parliamentary help in the form of an explicit instruction that in almost every case the right to know should take precedence over the right to privacy. Specified exceptions would obviously include matters of national security unless it was in the public interest.
Ah the public interest. That’s where the real difficulties begin. How to define what is in the public interest rather than what the public is interested in – though actually what the public is interested in is a better starting place than is generally supposed.
The concept of public interest needs to be widened to take in more categories of behaviour beyond the anti-social and criminal. It would have the merit of going with the grain of technology and history.
Why should football supporters or indeed cinema-goers not know about scandalous behaviour of those whose salaries they pay?
Many such performers profit massively from image rights and sponsorship deals trading usually on the fact that they are regular guys or girls not flaunting conventional societal values.
Why should sponsors not know the truth about the character and behaviour of those they reward to promote their products? Not too many sponsors stuck with Tiger Woods when the truth about his life finally came out.
What is denigrated as “tittle-tattle” designed merely to sell more newspapers is actually more significant than that – a morality tale, society speaking to itself about what is acceptable and what is not. It is a process forever in motion.
Maybe before too long no-one will raise an eyebrow about three-in-a-bed footballers and serial adulterers pretending to be faithful husbands and that would be absolutely fine.
But obviously we have not reached this saintly state of grace yet otherwise why are such people so keen on spending hundreds of thousands of pounds preventing people from knowing about their behaviour?
Think of the First Amendment and bring it all on and we can look forward to the first three-judges-in-a bed story.