Reference: Unreported, 26 January 2009
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Sir Charles Gray
Date of judgment: 26 Jan 2009
Summary: Privacy - Injunctions - Evidence about allegedly private information - Truth or falsity - Public domain - Notification of media - Spycatcher principle
Instructing Solicitors: Schillings for the Applicant; Charles Russell & Co for the Respondent
Gross J granted injunctive relief over a weekend in respect of an item published to REW’s email-subscribers which referred to a person, unnamed but identifiable to some readers, and to the effect his alleged extramarital relationship might have on an unnamed member of his family. Counsel for WER had indicated that WER’s solicitors intended to serve copies of the injunction on a considerable number of third-party media organisations. REW chose not to oppose at the return hearing the continuation of the order until trial or further order. Counsel for WER was invited to return to satisfy the court that it was a proper case for the grant of an injunction. WER and his counsel declined to inform the court whether the allegedly private information was true or false and gave no information about the availability of the said information to the public.
(1) Whether a claimant seeking wide-ranging injunctive relief should be expected to reveal to the court potentially material facts pertaining to the allegedly private information sought to be protected by injunction;
(2) The extent of the obligation upon an applicant seeking injunctive relief to notify in advance all those media defendants intended to be served with the injunction.
(1) The court was satisfied that the injunction should be continued to trial or further order. The claimant faced real difficulties in revealing any further detail about the allegedly private information he sought to protect, particularly for the reason that media parties could capitalise on the information that had been supplied to them after being served with the injunction;
(2) As a matter of common sense and economy, the obligation to serve media non-parties must be confined to those media organisations whom the claimant has reason to believe have displayed an interest in publishing the story which the claimant is seeking to injunct: X & Y v Persons Unknown considered.
This judgment clarifies that the X & Y v Persons Unknown obligation upon claimants to notify media organisations before an application for injunctive relief does not extend to all media non-parties:
“ As is apparent from its title, it was a case where the claimants themselves were unaware of the identity of the individual defendants whom they sued. As I understand it, the claimants limited their notification of the application to non-parties to third-party to a selected number who had shown some interest in the story. In those circumstances, it appears to me (and I hope I do not misapprehend what the judge said) that Eady J cannot have been contemplating an obligation being imposed on individual claimants, who may be of limited means, to arrange through their legal advisers to serve what might be a substantial body of evidence on a large number of media non-parties.”