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Privacy – Misuse of Private Information

In order to prevent the publication of private information or images it is necessary for the claimant to establish a reasonable expectation of privacy

In order to prevent the publication of private information or images it is necessary for the claimant to establish a reasonable expectation of privacy. What is meant by this has been the subject of considerable recent debate. Examples from cases include:-

  • Kiss and tell stories about footballers.
  • Photographs of a private wedding.
  • Information about a person’s reaction to the death of her fiance.
  • Photographs and information about sado-masochistic activities with five dominatrices in a private flat.
  • Information about a medical condition.

If there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, publication may still be permitted where it is outweighed by the defendant’s right to freedom of expression. In particular, whether there is a legitimate public interest in the information. This has also been the subject of much debate. Cases where freedom of expression has outweighed privacy rights include:-

A role modelĀ footballer cheating on his wife.

A fashion model drug addict who lied about whether she had taken drugs.

Information about the relationship between a company executive and his lover where company resources were used to help the lover.

Because each case depends on its own facts and the interpretation of the judge, the outcome can be difficult to predict.

Most privacy cases are fought at the pre-publication stage. The claimant finds out about the threatened publication and seeks an injunction to prevent it. The injunction can also restrict reporting of the court proceedings. Claimants are commonly anonymised.

If publication of the information has taken place, the claimant can seek damages.