The Independent has found that more than 333 gagging orders protecting the identities of celebrities, children and private individuals have been granted in the past five years, a far higher figure than previous estimates.
The paper says: "The secret nature of super-injunctions and other restrictive orders means that no definitive figures exist for the number of rulings currently in force in England and Wales."
But it claims an audit by The Independenthas found that at least 264 orders exist which grant anonymity to children or vulnerable adults. The figures reveal a further 69 cases where injunctions have been granted barring the publication of the names of high-profile individuals, including 28 men accused of extra-marital affairs and nine cases where convicted criminals have been granted anonymity.
The Independent says: "Courts are ready to issue gagging orders in a wide-ranging and occasionally surprising number of circumstances, including the case of a lawyer accused of possessing a quantity of hardcore pornography and an order preventing disclosure of the identity of a sex change candidate."
It also claims: "Orders have also been granted to at least seven major companies, including the publicly owned bank Northern Rock. The orders, some of which are permanent and some temporary, prevent publication of allegations about their commercial affairs."
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