The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. contains an interesting story today about the use of gag orders by large corporations in England to prevent the public from learning of potential safety hazards.
Called "hyper-injunctions," the gag orders are used to protect a corporation’s reputation by barring an individual from discussing embarrassing information which may affect a corporation’s business and legal interests.
The newspaper reports that a hyper-injunction was obtained at the High Court in 2006 which prevented an individual from "saying that paint used in water tanks on passenger ships could break down and release potentially toxic chemicals."
The injunction barred the person from discussing the case with members of Parliament, journalists and lawyers, along with the US Coast Guard and any ship owners, and also forbids any speculation linking chemicals in the paint with the illness of any individuals.
According to the Telegraph, the unidentified individual was given a two-week suspended sentence after talking to a lawyer about whether he would take the case. A U.K. politician commented on the situation saying:
"What we have, therefore, is passenger vessels trundling around the world with potentially toxic substances being released into the tanks. One of those who worked on the tanks collapsed as a result.
From a health and safety point of view, we want to think that the water we are drinking is safe and that it will not cause health problems. The difficulty in this case is that we do not know.
What we do know is that corporations used the massive force of the law to gag an individual and truss him up so much that he could not really challenge the process."
The article does not mention who obtained the gag order. Did a cruise line use the "hyper-injunction" to suppress information from a former employee?
Does anyone have information about this? Please leave a comment below.
November 13, 2011 Update: Looks like NCL and Royal Caribbean cruise ships contained the paint in question. The terminated paint inspector was Brian Bradford. You can read about the new information here.