Pippa Middleton & anor v Person Unknown or Persons Unknown [2016] EWHC 2354 (QB); injunction, misuse of private information, breach of copyright, Human Rights Act sections 8, 10 and 12

September 29, 2016 |

Yesterday in Pippa Middleton & anor v Person Unknown or Persons Unknown [2016] EWHC 2354 (QB)  Mrs Justice Whippie continued an injunction made on 24 September 2016 prohibiting the publication of photographs hacked from Pippa Middleton’s iCloud account.  The media reports that 3,000 photographs were accessed and offered for sale to media outlets in the United Kingdom for £55,000.  Not surprisingly the claimants sought injunctions on the publication of those photographs.

FACTS

On 24 September 2016, Dove J granted an interim injunction preventing the use publication or disclosure ofmaterial, set out in a Schedule, which listed photographs derived from Pippa Middleton’s iCloud account [1].

The evidence before the court was that, at [12], that:

a) Someone has apparently accessed the First Claimant’s iCloud account and the material held on it.

b) Photographs held on that iCloud account have been offered for sale to the national press.

c) The person(s) offering the photographs for sale has / have sought to avoid being identified. He or she has, or they have, communicated with the press in ways which are designed to be untraceable.

d) The photographs which have been offered for sale are personal to the Claimants. They include photographs of family, friends and places of personal importance.

e) Neither Claimant gave permission for those photographs – or any other material stored on the First Claimant’s icloud account – to be accessed in this way, disseminated, published, or sold.

Pippa Middleton also claimed that her iCloud account contained other private information beyond photographs whe feared has been accessed.   For that reason she seeks an injunction in wider terms than that granted by Dove J [15].

Police had arrested a man on suspicion of accessing Pippa Middleton’s iCloud account without authorisation [13].   but it is as yet not clear who was responsible for accessing the the account and for that reason the application is made against “Person or Persons Unknown” (as indeed was the case when Dove J granted the earlier Order).

DECISION

The claimants plead, in draft Particulars of Claim, at [10]:

a) Misuse of private information

b) Breach of confidence

c) Infringement of copyright

d) Breach of statutory obligations owed under the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Court’s approach to the application is guided by s 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998 where the court must be satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to notify the respondent of this hearing or that compelling reasons exist for not so notifying the respondent. The court was satisfied that as the identity of the defendants/respondents to the application is currently unknown notification is not possible. As such there are compelling reasons why no one else has been notified of today’s hearing or of this application [17]

With reference to Bloomsbury Publishing Group plc v New Group Newspapers Ltd [2003] 1 WLR 1633  the court was  satisfied that it was proper in a case such as this to issue an application, and make an order, against person(s) unknown relating to person(s) “who has or have appropriated, obtained and/or offered or intend to offer for sale and/or publication images contained on the First Claimant’s iCloud account” [18].

The court was confident that the Claimants would be likely to establish at trial that publication should not be allowed given the Information had been obtained by hacking into Pippa Middleton’s iCloud account,  a criminal act. The court stated, at [19], that such an act was:

On any view, it is an appalling intrusion into the Claimants’ private life. Any use by publication or sale of the information would be misuse of private information.

In weighing the relevant factors in section 12, at [20],  the Court noted:

  • the Information does not have any genuine public interest attached to it;
  • none of the Information is already available to the public or about to become available to the public;

the Editors’ Code of Practice records that “Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications”.

In the circumstances her Honour concluded that any argument to the effect that Article 10 is infringed by this order would be very weak and, by contrast, the Claimants’ arguments that their rights to private life under Article 8 are infringed if the order was not made was very strong. The balance at this stage clearly favoured the Claimants [21].

The orders, set out at [4] & [5], were that:

the Defendant(s) must not use, publish, offer for sale or disclose to any other person (other than (i) by way of disclosure to legal advisers instructed in relation to these proceedings (the Defendants’ legal advisers) for the purpose of obtaining legal advice in relation to these proceedings or (ii) for the purpose of carrying this Order into effect) all or any part of the information referred to in Schedule 1 to the Order.

Schedule 1 encompasses photographs or any other information which is derived from, or which there are grounds to suspect may derive from, the iCloud account of the First Claimant (the “Information”).

ISSUE

Somewhat unusually the decision and order named Middleton.  No pseudonym order was made.  Not surprisingly it has received considerable publicity with the BBC covering it in Court ban over Pippa Middleton hacked iCloud photos while CNN, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian, being just a few outlets reporting on the story.   There is a logic to this course of action, irrespective of the obligations to convince a court to grant a pseudonym order.  It would be very difficult for any media outlet not to be aware of the order and how photographs and other personal information of Pippa Middleton being offered to it were obtained.

One Response to “Pippa Middleton & anor v Person Unknown or Persons Unknown [2016] EWHC 2354 (QB); injunction, misuse of private information, breach of copyright, Human Rights Act sections 8, 10 and 12”

  1. Pippa Middleton & anor v Person Unknown or Persons Unknown [2016] EWHC 2354 (QB); injunction, misuse of private information, breach of copyright, Human Rights Act sections 8, 10 and 12 | Australian Law Blogs

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