A v B plc (Flitcroft v MGN Ltd)
Reference:  EWCA Civ 337;  QB 195;  EMLR 371;  3 WLR 542;  2 All ER 545
Court: Court of Appeal
Judge: Lord Woolf CJ, Laws and Dyson LJJ
Date of judgment: 11 Mar 2002
Summary: Breach of confidence - Privacy - Interim injunction - Public Interest - Human Rights Act 1998 - Article 10 - guidelines to be considered on interim applications - public figures - role models - section 12 Human Rights Act 1998
Instructing Solicitors: George Davis Solicitors for the Claimant; Marcus Partington for the Defendant
The Claimant, a married Premiership footballer, sought an injunction to prevent the first Defendant newspaper from disclosing or publishing information concerning sexual relationships that he had had with the second Defendant and another woman and to restrain any disclosure by those women to anyone with a view to such information being published in the media.
On the Claimant’s application, an interim injunction was granted. The judge refused the newspaper’s subsequent application to set aside the injunction on the merits, holding that the law of confidentiality should afford the same protection to sexual relationships outside marriage as to sexual relationships within marriage and that, since there was no public interest in the publication of the details relating to the claimant’s relationships, the claimant was likely to succeed at trial in restraining publication of the information. The Defendants’ appealed.
Whether the Claimant should be granted an interim injunction to prevent disclosure of the information
Where a court was considering whether to grant relief that might interfere with the freedom of the press, as protected by Article 10 of the ECHR, that interference had to be justified, even where there was no public interest in the material in question being published. The Defendants’ appeal was allowed. Where one party to a relationship wished to disclose information about that relationship, that affected the Article 8 right to confidentiality of the other party to the relationship. While recognising the special status of marriage, courts had to recognise and give appropriate weight to the extensive range of relationships which now existed, the more stable the relationship the greater the significance to be attached to it. There was a significant difference between the confidentiality which attached to what was intended to be a permanent relationship and that which attached to the category of relationships which the Claimant was involved with.
The Court of Appeal sets out guidelines for privacy or confidentiality injunctions. However its reasoning in this case is not altogether satisfactory. Lord Woolf’s “role model” justification for intrusion into privacy is not convincing and has been quickly explained and distinguished – see para. 40 & 41 of Lord Phillips MR in Campbell v MGN  EWCA Civ 1373;  QB 658;  2 WLR 80;  EMLR 2.