Super-injunctions: Howard Donald chances his luck as the law evolves

Relationships|November 17th 2010

If you are wondering who Howard Donald is and why he is so lucky, then let me explain…

Howard Donald is a member of Take That, one of the most successful boy bands ever. The group was formed from a bunch of raw  boys from the North West (except for Robbie Williams who came from Stoke) in the early 90s, and women have loved them for their rough and ready character ever since. They split up in 1996, shortly after Robbie Williams left to pursue a solo career, before reforming in 2006. Since getting back together they have enjoyed a stupendous revival of fortunes, and Robbie Williams has once again joined the group. Back to their original line-up, their latest album is selling like hot cakes and a tour planned for next year sold out in hours.

Many would think that as those boys have grown into middle aged men, they should be pretty much past it.

But they couldn’t be more wrong.

It’s definitely a “woman thing”, and I find myself just as much caught up in the hype as everyone else in Britain! Take That are still the rough and ready Manchester boys they always were and their fan base wouldn’t have it any other way.

Take Howard for example. A story broke this week concerning the injunction and subsequent “super-injunction” he applied for to silence a former girlfriend. There’s a gorgeous photo and very respectful article covering the story on the Manchester Evening News website this week, but it seems his hometown paper did him more favours than the media at large.

Elsewhere the “love rat” tag (or “Take Rat” headlines) has been more liberally applied, since it seems that the unmarried Howard has had relationships with three different women at the same time, and has children by two. A third ex-girlfriend, Adakini Ntuli, was the subject of the two injunctions because she was just about to provide a kiss and tell story to the News of the World. Unfortunately she was daft enough to text and warn him before the story broke asking why she should suffer financially “4 the sake of loyalty?” Why indeed you might wonder, why worry about loyalty when, as she put it: “selling my story will sort my life out.” As it turns out this message was a big mistake.

Howard immediately rushed off with his lawyers to request Mr Justice Eady grant an injunction preventing the story from being reported. In doing so he joined the fast growing number of celebrities who are able to persuade the learned judge to grant an interim “super-injunction”. This not only stops Ms Ntuli from publishing any details of their sexual relationship, but also prevents the media from disclosing the injunction was granted at all until the case against her is heard. He also obtained an order which means she must pay two-thirds of his costs on the basis that there had been “the plainest possible infringement of his privacy” in her dealings with the News of the World. Ouch!

But even though the writing was pretty clearly on the wall, Ms Ntuli decided to appeal against the injunction and so Donald then cross-appealed.

The Court of Appeal handed down a judgement that was significant for a number of reasons.  Fundamentally the court dismissed both appeals and permitted the original injunction to continue. It did however permit the disclosure of the injunction itself to the media, so ending the “super” part. In doing so it balanced the articles concerning freedom of expression and the right to privacy found within the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It was decided that the fact of the relationship was known to the public, but that the more intimate details must remain private.

Luckily for Howard, news of the engagement between Prince William and Kate Middleton then knocked his story into the back of beyond. It also meant that the legal implications of this case – as the latest development in the super-injunctions saga – would not be properly explored by the mainstream media. This is perhaps with the exception of the Guardian News & Media Group, publisher of The Guardian, which played a direct role in the appeal hearing. It made a number of submissions concerning such injunctions, in particular the impact they have on a media that is unable to report any identifying features that might reference their existence.

As it happens, and considering the success of their recent album and tour, I don’t believe that the band’s millions of ardent fans have been put off by these revelations, any more than they have been put off by similar revelations in the past. I expect that Take That’s PR team, Howard’s legal counsel and the man himself are not losing as much sleep over this episode as they could have done. They might have even saved the money they spent on the case.

That may not also apply to Ms Ntuli, who having sacrificed her loyalty (whether he deserved it or not) is now stuck with no payout, massive legal bills and all the indications the Court of Appeal could give (made as politely as possible) that she hasn’t got a cat in hells chance of success at trial.

Thumbnail image credit: vagueonthehow.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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