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

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


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.


(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


(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.


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.