By Rebekah Hayes and Alasdair Muller
Associated Newspapers has been ordered to pay three of Paul Weller’s children a total of £10,000 in damages for misuse of private information and breach of the Data Protection Act.
Covertly taken pictures of the musician on a day out with his children in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, appeared on Mail Online in October 2012. The High Court held that, although the pictures had been taken and published legally in America, their publication in the United Kingdom through Mail Online constituted misuse of private information, and consequently a breach of the Data Protection Act.
Weller, acting as litigation friend to his children, was required to show that: (i) in the specific circumstances of the case, his family had a reasonable expectation of privacy; and (ii) his family’s right to privacy could be sufficiently balanced against Mail Online’s right to publish the photographs.
Reasonable Expectation of Privacy
The judge held that, as the photographs were taken on a family outing, showed the faces of Weller’s children and were depicted alongside captions identifying them by surname, a reasonable expectation of privacy was established.
Balancing the Rights
The Wellers’ right to a private life was found to override Mail Online’s right to freedom of speech. There was no relevant debate of public interest to justify the publication of the photographs, and, although observing that it was not his role to interpret the Press Complaints Commission Editor’s Code of Practice (‘Code‘), the judge cited clause 6(v) of the Code, which provides “[e]ditors must not use the fame… or position of a parent… as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life”.
Associated Newspapers has announced that it plans to appeal the decision, the full judgement of which can be found here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2014/1163.html