back to article Minister hints that libel reform will create privacy law

A justice minister has said that there is "consensus" that a privacy law is needed, though he stopped short of committing the government to introducing one. A fellow senior Liberal Democrat said Parliament needed to "get hold" of privacy law. There is no overarching privacy law in the UK, but celebrities and athletes have …

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Big Brother

What about us!

So that's privacy for the rich, famous and powerful, but what about privacy for the rest of us! ... expecially against the relentless amoral corporations!

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Point taken.

If we are having a debate on privacy, let's do it properly. Personally, I want to see questions about who owns information about an individual (hint: I think that, in general, the individual does), and what reasonable limitations can be put on that, and under what circumstances.

The libel laws are only a small part of the problem, and effectively only a side-show.

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FAIL

Another reason to hate The Daily Mail

"...their age-old freedom to expose the moral shortcomings of those in high places."

I remember them using this argument when Max Mosley sued the papers senseless (rightly, in my view) for that whole spanking thing. As a motorsport fan and competitor I was pleased to see the little gobshite get his comeuppance; though at the same time the manner in which it occurred was plainly wrong (and, so the conspiracy theory goes, initiated by his enemies in F1 - but that's a whole different matter).

The argument fails as miserably as it did then, and on three counts:

1) It isn't just used for "those in high places" - any old Man On The Street is a target, if it sells newspapers.

2) In Mosley's case, being partial to a bit of light flogging does not affect the man's ability to manage world motorsport (many other things did, but that's also a whole different matter);

3) Who the hell are The Daily Mail, of all people, to judge what constitutes "moral shortcomings?" They weren't exactly vocal in the run up to the Second World War, if my history is correct.

I look forward to the day Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is caught in a compromising situation, the specifics of which I shall leave to your imagination.

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Paul Dacre

Why should we be listening to that revolting, nasty, racist little piece of work again?

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Re: Mad Max

Whilst the flogging might have been light, the "public interest" \ moral lapse was more to do with the German spoken and Third Reich uniforms the floggers wore. Given who his father was, anything even remotely Germanic about his life, private or public, was always going make into the press.

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Stop

And this is why

Max sued for libel and won. None of that ever happened except in your lurid imagination.

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Coat

Gotta feel sorry for him, in a way

Very true, though it was that supposed-but-false Nazism angle which Max used to screw the NotW in the end.

I wonder what the result have been had they translated the German, realised there were no Nazi connotations, and printed something reasonably accurate (ludicrous though that sounds)? One suspects Mosley would have had a harder time winning the case. Or perhaps just used a different argument.

Mine's the old that doesn't look like a black shirt.

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Not convinced

I understand where you're coming from. However, unless Max himself had been vocal on the fascist subject, I'm not sure we should hold a child responsible for the deeds of their parents.

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Not libel

Max didn't sue for libel - although many thought he could have. He sued for breach of privacy, and won.

He also did the court case relatively cheaply using a small firm of lawyers and yet the costs were still way out of reach of the average person.

In the next issue after the decision, the NoTW ran an similar article about a friend of mine that destroyed their career. The current law is clearly no deterrent.

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Sins of the parents

During one of Max's many interviews he did say that he had a interest in politics, but knew because of his father that it was never really an option. He knew that the establishment and press would rip him to shreds so he avoided it, and same thing applied when he was doing something where it was easy to attach Facist overtones. I'm saying what the NotW did was right, but Max should have known what was going to happen if he was ever discovered and then been a little more careful.

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OK in general

...but to pick up the point on Mad Max. It always seemed strange to me how his representatives appeared to speak to the women involved, after which the story seemed to change.

I agree in general with AC at 14:51 but on the other hand I do think it effects his job. We are not multiple people, we are single people. I can divide my work off to some extent but I am the same person at work and at home. If he could lie to his wife, who he had the closest and apparently most valued relationship with, then how long do you think he'd hesitate over lying at work?

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Anonymous Coward

The joys of power

A nice solid privacy law would be especially convenient for the Tories, given their party's predilection for getting caught in embarrassing situations (occasionally involving bin bags, football shirts and the occasional orange) that conflict with their preachy "family values" message. Much as I'd love to see Cameron suffer the same 'death of a thousand cuts' that marked Major's term, I'm sure Tory MPs will be right behind the Liberals in ensuring it doesn't happen and I'd be unsurprised to see 'privacy' somehow stretched to cover the details of parliamentary expense claims.

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That would depend on how the law is phrased

If you add in a clause allowing truthful comment that is in the public interest you avoid this problem.

It's is in the public interest to know that the 'family values' politician doesn't believe what he is saying, and it is also in the public interest to know that chiropractors are making claims that they can't back up.

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Does this mean . . .

. . . we might see a law that protects, say, those accused/arrested, but not convicted of a crime from having their names splashed across the papers ??

You know, the people who have been falsely accused of and subsequently arrested for paedophilia and rape ?

People who's lives have been utterly destroyed by the press, as opposed to the rich and famous, where it's apparently "a bit of character".

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Naomi Campbell

Didn't use Article 8 of the ECHR, her case was based on 'breach of confidence' ('confidence' in the sense of 'confidentiality'), which comes from domestic common law.

Her case succeeded because the newspaper was essentially releasing details of her medical treatment, which are confidential. Had she just taken them to court for reporting her use of drugs it would have failed.

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Article 8 made all the difference

I think this is a rather disingenuous reading of the case. Article 8 was certainly a major factor and the judge fundamentally altered the tort of breach of confidence and even said it would be better to call it "misuse of private information".

The major difference is that previously a breach of confidence would have to involve information which the plantiff had communicated to the defendant in confidence or at least the expectation that it would be held as such. I'm not aware of any precedent establishing that someone unconnected with the plantiff who reported on (or passed on information about) where the plantiff went in public, whether that be a bar, drug den or treatment centre, could be held in breach of confidence.

If someone whom there was reasonable grounds to expect to maintain medical confidentiality (eg a doctor, therapist or even a fellow group patient) released confidential information, that would clearly be a breach of confidence, but it was only with the introduction of Article 8 that the courts felt enabled to alter this tort to prohibit complete strangers from passing on information they had gathered about the plantiff in circumstances where there could be no reasonable expectation that the information would be held in confidence (i.e. by observing where they went in public).

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If it's not against the law...

Ultimately, what someone does in private with consenting adults is entirely their own business provided it's within the law (although the last government were trying to make most of it illegal to overcome that problem). As such, the media should keep their noses out. I'd make an exception for an MP attempting to push legislation while engaging in exactly the practice he was trying to stop, but for anything done in private that doesn't affect public performance, there should be an expectation of privacy.

Photos taken in public places are still fair game, so the Daily Fail can still publish its embarrassing celeb-in-Tesco pictures, but on private land behind fences/screens it's less clear.

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