LONDON — A British politician used Parliament’s free-speech guarantee Thursday to identify Topshop owner Philip Green as the businessman accused of sexual harassment who had secured a court order barring the media from revealing his identity.
The Court of Appeal issued the order this week, saying the five alleged victims had been “compromised” because they signed non-disclosure agreements as part of settlement packages in which they received substantial payments.
The injunction prevented the media from naming Green, but lawmakers’ words in Parliament are immune from legal action under an exemption known as parliamentary privilege.
Hain said he had been “contacted by somebody intimately involved in the case.”
“I feel it’s my duty under parliamentary privilege to name Philip Green as the individual in question, given that the media have been subject to an injunction preventing publication of the full details of a story which is clearly in the public interest,” he said.
Green did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2015, he sold department store chain BHS for 1 pound after 15 years of ownership. BHS collapsed the next year, leaving a gaping hole in its pension fund. Green elicited further disapproval when it emerged he took hundr of millions in dividends and other payments while he owned the business.
Media outlets have long criticized the use of court injunctions by the famous and powerful to keep stories out of the news. As in other European countries, U.K. courts balance the right to free speech with individuals’ right to privacy and due process.
Conservative lawmaker James Cleverly tweeted after Hain’s unmasking of Green he hoped people would realize injunctions “are nothing more than a good way to part with large sums of money and a bad way to keep things secret.”
The case has also renewed debate about the corporate use of non-disclosure agreements. The practice has been under scrutiny since it emerged last year that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein used them to keep alleged sex abuse victims from speaking out.