Full case report

Archer v Williams

Reference [2003] EWHC 1670 (QB); [2003] EMLR 869; [2003] FSR 869
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Jackson J

Date of Judgment 3 Jul 2003


Summary

Breach of Confidence – Contract – Employment – European Convention on Human Rights – Article 8 – Article 10 – Damages – Injury to feelings – liability for republication


Facts

Lady Archer sought damages and an injunction preventing the defendant from disclosing confidential details of her employment with the claimant. After the Defendant had left the Claimant’s employment, she had discussions through an intermediary with various newspapers with a view to selling her story. She sent an outline of some of the details by a fax to an intermediary to assist with the negotiations. An article then appeared in a newspaper alleging that the claimant had undergone cosmetic surgery. Various newspapers subsequently published similar articles. These articles had appeared without the Defendant’s consent, as she had not concluded any deal with any newspaper. The Claimant had obtained an interim injunction to restrain further publication. At trial, in addition to a claim for permanent injunction, the claimant sought damages for injury to her feelings.


Issue

(1) Whether the Defendant was responsible for the publication in the newspapers;
(2) Whether the Claimant was entitled to damages for hurt feelings caused by the breach of confidence;
(3) Quantum of damages


Held

(1) The Defendant was liable for the republication in the newspapers;
(2) The Claimant was entitled to damages for hurt feelings;
(3) £2,500 was the appropriate level of damages Cornelius v de Taranto (2001) and Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers (2002) considered.


Comment

The Judge’s finding in relation to liability for republication is open to question. He makes no reference to the leading authority on liability for republication: McManus v Beckham [2002] EWCA Civ 939; [2002] EMLR 880; [2002] 1 WLR 2982. On this authority, it is difficult to see how the Defendant could have been held liable for republication. The damages award was low. Measured against the decision in The Gleaner v Abrahams [2003] UKPC 55; [2003] 3 WLR 1038; [2003] EMLR 737 the deterrent value of such an award to a media organisation would be nil.


Instructing Solicitors

Mishcon de Reya for the Claimant; C. S. Lyall for the Defendant


Links

Judge calls for truce in final chapter of diary battle - The Age
Lady Archer in Court win - Evening Standard
Lady Archer wins high court battle - The Guardian
Lady Archer wins privacy battle - BBC