Full case report

CTB v News Group Newspapers Ltd

Reference [2011] EWHC 1232 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Eady J

Date of Judgment 16 May 2011


Summary

Privacy – Misuse of private information – Article 8, European Convention on Human Rights – Interim injunction – Blackmail – Anonymity – Public domain


Facts

C was a married footballer with a family. On 14 April 2011 D1 published in The Sun newspaper the account of D2 (model Imogen Thomas) of a sexual relationship lasting around 6 months that she claimed to have had with C (C contended that he had only met her on 5 occasions). The publication did not name C, D1 having given an undertaking not to name him that expired at 4pm the following day.

C applied for an injunction restraining publication of his identity and of any further account, or purported account, of the relationship.


Issue

Whether C should be granted an injunction preventing his identification or the publication of any further account of the relationship, including:

(1) whether C had a reasonable expectation of privacy and/or was entitled to Article 8 protection in respect of these matters; and

(2) whether his claim was likely to succeed, given the countervailing considerations, in particular the other Convention rights in play.


Held

Granting the injunction sought, and continuing it on the return date:

The Court had to have regard to the rights and interests of C and his family under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The evidence before the court (although limited and untested) appeared strongly to suggest that D2 was attempting to blackmail C. The courts have long afforded anonymity to those targeted by threats of blackmail as a matter of public policy. The courts have an obligation to afford remedies to such individuals, to discourage blackmailers and to give some protection in respect of personal or private information where there is a threat of revelation.

(1) There could be no doubt that the subject matter of the threatened publication was matter in respect of which C had a reasonable expectation of privacy and which he was entitled to Article 8 protection. It concerned conduct of an intimate and sexual nature. There was no suggestion that the relationship was conducted publicly.

(2) C was likely to succeed in obtaining a permanent injunction at trial. It was not argued that publication would be in the public interest. Whether private information was no longer private but had entered the public domain was not a black and white distinction but rather a question of degree and a matter of looking at the particular facts and deciding whether, notwithstanding some publication, there remains a reasonable expectation of some privacy. The Judge was not persuaded that there was by that time nothing left to protect in respect of which the Claimant still had a reasonable expectation of privacy.


Comment

Another case of clearly private information with little or nothing in the way of public interest in publication to weigh against respecting privacy – indeed there was not even any suggestion that there was any public interest in publication. As the Judge said at [33]:

“It will rarely be the case that the privacy rights of an individual or of his family will have to yield in priority to another’s right to publish what has been described in the House of Lords as “tittle-tattle about the activities of footballers’ wives and girlfriends”: see eg Jameel v Wall Street Journal Europe SPRL at [147]. It has recently been re-emphasised by the Court in Strasbourg that the reporting of “tawdry allegations about an individual’s private life” does not attract the robust protection under Article 10 afforded to more serious journalism. In such cases, “freedom of expression requires a more narrow interpretation”: Mosley v UK, at [114].”


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Instructing Solicitors

Schillings for C; Farrer & Co for D1; David Price for D2