Mahmood v Galloway & McKay
Reference:  EWHC 1286 (QB);  EMLR 763
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Mitting J
Date of judgment: 5 Apr 2006
Summary: Freedom of expression - Privacy - Articles 2, 8, and 10, European Convention on Human Rights - Interim injunction - Photographs - Internet
Instructing Solicitors: Farrer & Co for the Applicant; David Price for the Respondents
The applicant (M) was an investigative journalist who conducted investigations under the guise of different alter egos. He had sought to conduct a covert interview with the first respondent (G), a Member of Parliament. Two photographs of M were subsequently published on the website of the political party to which G belonged and for which the second respondent worked as a press officer, the purpose of publication being to allow potential subjects of subsequent investigations to recognise M as an undercover journalist. It was claimed by the respondents that the photographs had been taken during the course of previous journalistic investigations. M applied for the continuation of an interim injunction contra mundi restraining the publication of these photos on the basis that (1) publication would breach his right to privacy; (2) publication would endanger his life contrary to Art 2 ECHR.
Whether the interim injunction prohibiting the internet publication of the photographs that identified the applicant should be continued, giving due consideration to s.12 of the Human Rights Act 1998.
(1) On the balance of probabilities, the sources of the photographs were those as contended for by the respondents. As such, the court found that the photographs were taken as a consequence of journalistic investigations, not for a private or domestic purpose. Following Campbell v MGN Ltd, M could not have reasonably had an expectation of privacy in respect of the photographs and would therefore not be able to establish such at trial. (2) Publication of the photographs would not endanger M’s life. The true purpose of M’s application was to protect his earning capacity and position as an investigative journalist. It was not likely that any court would extend rights of privacy to uphold those rights. Accordingly, and in all the circumstances pursuant to s.12 of the Act, it was inappropriate to grant a further injunction in respect of the photographs.
This case is interesting not simply for the irony of an investigative journalist seeking an injunction against a high-profile politician but also as a consequence of Mitting J’s remarks regarding his belief that injunctive relief would not be available under the DPA. The later case of Sunderland Housing Company & another v Baines & others, also at first instance, provides authority to the contrary.