On Thursday, the House of Lords delivered its opinion in favour of Naomi Campbell in her privacy action against the Daily Mirror. After Campbell stated publicly that she did not take drugs, The Mirror published stories, together with a photograph, about her attendance at Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Campbell sued for breach of confidence and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998, alleging the wrongful publication of private information and claiming damages. The Mirror denied liability, maintaining that there was a public interest in correcting the false impression caused by Campbell’s original statement and that its publication was protected by freedom of speech.
The trial judge awarded modest damages on the basis that The Mirror must have known that the information about Campbell's attendance at NA was confidential and that there was no overriding public interest in publishing it. The Court of Appeal reversed that decision, holding that so long as publication of particular confidential information was justifiable in the public interest, journalist had to be given reasonable latitude as to the manner in which the information was conveyed and that this would justify the publication of peripheral information.
On appeal to the House of Lords, Campbell conceded that her previous public statements about drugs precluded her from claiming protection for the information that she had taken drugs and was seeking treatment. However, Campbell argued that information about the details of the treatment she was receiving for addiction at NA and an accompanying photograph were entitled to protection by reason of their private nature because, in relation to that information, Campbell's right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights, Art.8 outweighed the competing interest of Then Mirror’s freedom of expression under Art.10.
The House of Lords, by a three-to-two majority, allowed Campbell’s appeal. The court agreed with the trial judge that the information in issue was all private and confidential. The Mirror ought to have known that there was a reasonable expectation that the information in question would be kept confidential (citing A v B & another  EWCA Civ 337, with approval). The Court of Appeal was wrong to hold that “peripheral information” was within the margin of appreciation which should be left to journalists and that the Mirror's freedom of expression served to justify the publication of all the information. The publication of the fact that Campbell had taken drugs and was seeking treatment was necessary to set the record straight given her previous statements, but the additional information ― including the photograph ― was an unjustified intrusion into her private life. Balancing the competing interests, Campbell's right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights, Art.8 outweighed the Mirror’s freedom of expression under Art.10.
The IPKat says that the balance between celebrity privacy and freedom to communicate information seems to have shifted irretrievably in favour of the individual. This is a desirable outcome. Even if celebrities do seek publicity, their high profile is no justification for the publication, in relation to them, of information which would be regarded as unnecessarily invasive if it were published in respect of non-celebrities.
Narcotics Anonymous here
Naomi Campbell reveals all here
Shock news – mirror protects privacy here
Sunday, 9 May 2004
Posted by Jeremy and Ilanah at 12:49:00 a.m.