Musician Wins Privacy Claim

Latest QBD Privacy Judgment

Mr Justice Eady today handed down judgment in the case of McKennitt v Ash [2005] EWHC 3003 (QB), a significant decision concerning the extent to which the courts will protect the personal information of a celebrity.

Loreena McKennitt, a Canadian folk singer and composer, today succeeded in her privacy claim against a former friend who had written a book about her. The decision of Mr Justice Eady deals with areas of the developing law of privacy that have not yet been explored fully in case law.  In particular:

  • the principles set out in Von Hannover are not confined to harrassment by paparazzi and tabloids but are of more general application.
  • there is a significant shift taking place as between the media’s right to freedom of expression and the interests of citizens to have their private life protected.
  • in personal information cases, the court will be less ready to assume protection has been lost forever on the basis that the information has entered the public domain.
  • the public domain test applied by the court was to ask ‘whether the information in question is so generally accessible that, in all the circumstances, it cannot be regarded as confidential.’
  • in exposure of misconduct cases, in order to trigger a defence of public interest a very high degree of misbehaviour must be demonstrated and relatively trivial matters will not suffice.
  • however, where a Claimant deliberately sought to mislead the public on a significant issue, that would be regarded as sufficient reason for putting the record straight.
  • a reasonable expectation of privacy may arise even where the information published by the Defendant is untrue, distorted or misleading. The protection of the law would be illusory if a Claimant has to spell out which revelations are accepted as true and which are false.

5RB‘s Desmond Browne QC and David Sherborne (instructed by Carter-Ruck) appeared for the Claimant.

Click here for the full judgment and 5RB case report.