The number of ultra-secretive super-injunctions in Northern Ireland has reached a record level.
In the case of a traditional injunction, the media can report that an injunction has prevented them from reporting a story about an individual and provide some anonymised details of the order.
However, a super-injunction prevents even the reporting of the fact that a banning order is in place.
The orders are so secretive that the Assembly cannot even be told the date on which each judicial decision was made because of “a risk of contravening the terms of the order”.
However, an MLA has managed to establish how many of the orders currently remain in place in Northern Ireland.
UUP MLA Harold McKee has established, via an Assembly question to the justice minister, that there are now more of the orders than ever.
Last April, the TUV leader Jim Allister had established that there were five live super-injunctions in place.
Now there are six.
One of the live orders has been in place for seven years, since 2009.
One super-injunction was granted last year and another was granted this year.
Three other orders have been discharged at some point since 2007, and are no longer in force.
Mr McKee said: “These figures would suggest that there are still individuals in Northern Ireland who may be using archaic injunction orders to shield themselves from scrutiny or public comment.
“The expense of applying for and securing these legal protections can be enormous and as such it is often a route only open to a privileged few.
“It’s therefore no surprise that many people will find their continuing use, along with the fact there are now more live than in anytime over the last 10 years, deeply disturbing.”
The South Down MLA added: “It once again starkly demonstrates the consequences of the Executive’s decision not to adopt similar defamation laws in Northern Ireland that exist across the rest of the UK.
“Earlier this year a major report by Dr Andrew Scott recommended that many of the measures equivalent to the UK’s Defamation Act should be introduced into law here.
“In the months since the Executive has again done nothing.
“These latest figures of super-injunctions will further compound the pressure on the DUP, as they have been the major barrier to modernising our local defamation laws, to explain why exactly they are so determined not to allow freedom of speech in Northern Ireland by desperately clinging to the laws of the past.”