AMM v News Group Newspapers – High Court decision in UK for privacy injunction

December 10, 2014 |

After a surge in their use, followed by some criticism, the use of injunctions in the privacy/misuse of private information proceedings in the United Kingdom has been quite restrained in the last few years.  That such an order is available to the court is demonstrated in the recent decision of AMM v News Group Newspapers [2014] EWHC 4063 (QB) where the Court, per Stewart J, granted an injunction restraining News Group Newspaper from publishing private information.

FACTS

The Defendant is the publisher of the Sun on Sunday. The application for an injunction sought to restrain publication of information concerning a sexual relationship that the Applicant had in 2011 [3]. The Defendant first intended to publish the information in March 2013 but refrained from doing so after the Applicant indicated that an injunction would be sought.  The Defendant then agreed not to publish  without first providing 48 hours notice [7].

The injunction was granted after a hearing on Saturday, 29 November 2014 to allow for the filing of further evidence. The Defendant, while willing to give an undertaking not to publish for 7 days, was not prepared to give that undertaking to the court.

The matter was set down for a further hearing on 5 December 2014 or such other date as the court determined. At that time the Court will decide whether to continue the injunction [4].

DECISION

The Court was satisfied that the Applicant is likely to establish that publication should not be allowed based on the information available [7]. No substantive reason had been given justifying publication as being in the public interest. The information clearly engaged the Article 8 Rights of the Applicant and the family of the Applicant and the court upon  balancing Articles 8 and 10  of the Human Rights Act having regard to the principles in Von Hannover (No 2)  found it was  in favour of the Applicant’s Article 8 Rights.

The Court found that if the information was published and it proved later to have been published wrongfully then damages would not be an adequate remedy [8].

The Court also found that , at this stage, it was necessary for the hearing to have been in private and for the Applicant to be anonymised [10].  If the the Applicant was not anonymised then:

“..the Applicant would in my judgment be subject to intense speculation as to the nature of the private information to be injuncted. This speculation may well cause at least as great, if not greater, harm than the publication of the information itself and may well also lead to the injuncted information becoming public by one means or another.

ISSUE

There is no Australian equivalent to the Human Rights Act and as such care should be taken in comparing the approach taken by the UK High Court and the current process in the Australian Courts, which does permit injunctive relief and anonymisation of parties.  That said it is useful to consider the methodology as the Victorian Court of Appeal in Giller v Procopets firmly signalled that it followed the UK authorities in expanding breach of confidence to encompass misuse of private information.  Further, while the processes differ the issues are broadly the same so insight of how the UK courts approach such applications is instructive.

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