THE DEBATE over privacy laws raged on the streets of Scarborough, after Ryan Giggs was named as the footballer at the centre of a stand-off between Parliament, the judiciary and cyberspace.
Manchester United midfielder Giggs took out an injunction to prevent details of an alleged affair with Big Brother star and glamour model Imogen Thomas being published.
Tens of thousands of users of internet social networking site Twitter named Giggs as the Premier League footballer who had taken out the injunction.
But Giggs’ name could only be revealed in the press after Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming named him in the Commons, using the law of Parliamentary privilege.
However some shoppers in Scarborough yesterday admitted they had not been aware that the 37-year-old was the man at the centre of the debate until his name was published in the mainstream media.
Store manager Jan Marsh said: “I only knew it was him this morning when I saw a paper in a cafe, but I don’t think celebrities should be allowed to take out the injunctions. The likes of you and me couldn’t afford it.”
Student Daniella Clark said she had tried to find out the footballer’s name on the internet but had been unsuccessful.
“I was wondering who it was,” she said. “I looked for it on Google but I couldn’t find it. I am surprised it’s Ryan Giggs.
“I think celebrities have a right to privacy but should lose it if they do something wrong.”
However Chris Smith, a dispatch manager, said he had found out weeks ago that it was Giggs who had taken out the injunction.
“My other half told me about it, she’s always on Twitter,” he said. “I don’t see why celebrities should be able to take out injunctions. Why should they be different to anyone else?
“It is a shame it’s Ryan Giggs because he had a squeaky clean image and has been a great ambassador, but it’s all gone pear shaped.”
Jean Robinson, wife of Scarborough businessman Don Robinson, received a video message from Giggs to mark the couple’s 50th anniversary in 2006. The Robinsons are close friends with the player’s agent.
Mrs Robinson said yesterday: “I had an inkling that it was him. It is sad if he’s blotted his copy book.
“Everyone I know that has met him has said what an absolutely lovely young man he is.
“I think with the injunctions it’s the mystery that keeps people interested. If it had been in the paper to begin with it would have been finished with after two or three days and people would have moved on.”
Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill said he believed laws on privacy should be looked at again, following the furore over Giggs’ court order.
He said: “The whole thing has got a bit ridiculous. The laws the courts have used were passed by Parliament. Now MPs and the Lords are flying in the face of them.
“While there is a difference between what is in the public interest and what interests the public, people in the public eye need to be aware that what they do will interest people. I think we should revisit this to see if the law is adequate.”
Mr Goodwill added that he was concerned that innocent public figures could become the victim of malicious internet gossip-mongers. I’m not too worried about people putting factual material on the internet, but reputations can be destroyed by spurious allegations, posted under the cloak of anonymity,” he said.
“Very few people are taking injunctions out, but by looking on the internet you would think it’s hundreds that have them. That is not the case.”