In a 104 page High Court judgement, Mr Justice Lindsay ruled that Hello! magazine had breached commercial confidentiality by publishing photographs secretly taken of the Douglas/Zeta-Jones wedding, and that Hello! had breached the Press Complaint’s Commissions’ code of conduct – but that there had been no invasion of the couple’s privacy in law. The Judge held that the evidence that Hello! and OK had competed to win the right to cover the wedding was enough to demonstrate that commercial confidentiality should apply and that the couple were entitled to damages as a result of this.
The judge commented that “I hold the Defendants to be liable…. under the law as to confidence. It will have been noted that an important step in my coming to that conclusion has been that, on balancing rights to confidence against freedom of express for the purpose of granting or withholding relief, I have been required by statute to pay, and have paid, regard to the Code of the Press Complaints Commission. The Hello! Defendants broke their own industry’s Code.”
But Mr Justice Lindsay did not uphold the couple’s claim in privacy and indeed went some way to suggest the court would not create any new precedent in privacy law as this was a matter for Parliament, and not for the courts.
For background on this case see: The London Evening Standard, Friday 11th April 2003 and seewww.timesonline.co.uk/business.
For a review of the judgement see: www.simkins.com
COMMENT : This case, like Naomi Campbell’s case against the Daily Mirror for photographs of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and footballer Gary Flitcroft’s action to try to prevent ‘kiss and tell’ stories being published in the tabloids, still mean that there is no real law of ‘privacy’ in the United Kingdom. The Human Rights Act 1998 (which enacted the European Convention for Human Rights in UK law) sets out a basic right to privacy in home and family life (article ) but this always has to be balanced against the right of freedom of the press (article 10) and recently the UK Court of Appeal has given a wide meaning to ‘public interest’ and have therefore given the press a strong claim to report on almost anything involving a celebrity which might be of ‘interest to the public’. There is now growing political pressure for Parliament to enact a privacy law, although we can expect this to be strongly resisted by the media, in particular, by the tabloid press.