PJS v News Group Newspapers
Reference:  EWCA Civ 100
Court: Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
Judge: Lord Justice Jackson, Lady Justice King
Date of judgment: 22 Jan 2016
Summary: Privacy - Injunction - Misuse of Private Information - Article 8 - Article 10 - Balancing exercise - Correcting the Record - Rights of Children
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Instructing Solicitors: Carter-Ruck for the Apellant, News Group Newspaper in house for the Respondents
The Claimant (‘PJS’) sought an injunction restraining publication of the fact that, in 2011, he had a three-way sexual encounter with ‘AB’ and ‘CD’.
At first instance, the judge (Cranston J) declined to grant an injunction, ruling that the article would be in the public interest because it would correct a false image that PJS had presented of himself as being in a committed relationship with his spouse YMA.
Had the Judge correctly carried out the balancing exercise between the Article 8 rights of the Claimant and the Article 10 rights of the Defendant?
Was he wrong to conclude that there was a public interest in correcting a false image of commitment portrayed by PJS and YMA, and therefore refuse to grant an injunction?
Allowing the appeal:
(1) The image that PJS and YMA had presented was not one of monogamy, but of commitment. The Judge had accepted that commitment does not necessarily entail monogamy. Thus the material did not correct a false image; it just provided “supplementary information” about the relationship in that PJS was allowed by YMA to have sex with others. Furthermore, PJS was not obliged to correct material about him online which his conduct later made false.
(2) Despite identifying the rights of the children as a relevant consideration, the Judge failed to explain how he had taken those rights into account . Publication of the material would create a “media storm” that was bound to affect the children; either by immediate harassment, or on the playground, or long-term via the internet.
This was the first privacy injunction to reach the Court of Appeal since 2011. It restates well-established principles.
The court makes clear that a public interest arises in correcting a false image portrayed by a claimant, but only where (a) the claimant has “set out to present a false picture”; and (b) the publication would “set the record straight” in a “material respect”. In assessing this it is important to consider exactly what image the person in question has put forward to the public. Here the court accepted the argument that commitment does not necessarily entail monogamy.
The judgment also underlines the significance attached in such cases to the rights of children.