A v B plc and Another (Flitcroft v MGN Ltd): CA 11 Mar 2002

A newspaper company appealed against an order preventing it naming a footballer who, they claimed, had been unfaithful to his wife.
Held: There remains a distinction between the right of privacy which attaches to sexual activities within and outside a marriage. An order restricting the freedom of the press requires positive and clear justification. The fact that there might be no proper public interest in the material to be published was not itself a sufficient reason. Section 12(4) should not be turned on its head. Remedies such as interim injunctions were discretionary. Though interim, they might in practice determine the proceedings, but the applicant still needed to show that he would be likely to succeed at trial. There is a balance to be found between the right of a free press, and rights of privacy. The use of unlawful means to acquire the material to be published could be important. A public figure is entitled to a private life, but must recognise and accept that his actions may be more closely scrutinised by the media. The Press Complaints Code of Practice is a relevant privacy code. Once the freedom of the press prevailed, how it should be exercised is not for the courts. Lord Woolf said: ‘There is a tension between the two articles which requires the court to hold the balance between the conflicting interests they are designed to protect. This is not an easy task but it can be achieved by the courts if, when holding the balance, they attach proper weight to the important rights which both articles are designed to protect. Each article is qualified expressly in a way which allows the interests under the other article to be taken into account.’
As to the position of a professional footballer as a role model, Lord Woolf said that a public figure: ‘may hold a position where higher standards can be rightly expected by the public. The public figure may be a role model whose conduct could well be emulated by others. He may set the fashion. The higher the profile of the individual concerned the more likely will that be the position. Whether you have courted publicity or not, you may be a legitimate subject of public attention. If you have courted public attention then you have less ground to object to the intrusion which follows. In many of these situations it would be overstating the position to say that there is a public interest in the information being published. It would be more accurate to say that the public have an understandable and so a legitimate interest in being told the information.’

Lord Woolf LCJ, Laws, Dyson LJJ
Times 13-Mar-2002, Gazette 25-Apr-2002, [2002] 3 WLR 542, [2002] EWCA Civ 337, [2003] QB 195, [2002] 1 FLR 1021, [2002] UKHRR 457, (2002) 12 BHRC 466, [2002] HRLR 25, [2002] 2 FCR 158, [2002] 2 All ER 545, [2002] Fam Law 415, [2002] EMLR 21
Human Rights Act 1998 12(4), European Convention on Human Rights Art 8 Art 10
England and Wales
ApprovedImutran Ltd v Uncaged Campaigns Ltd and Another ChD 11-Jan-2001
The test for whether an interim injunction should be granted restraining publication of material claimed to be confidential, where such a grant would infringe the right to freedom of expression was slightly different under the 1998 Act. The . .
ApprovedDouglas, Zeta Jones, Northern and Shell Plc v Hello! Limited (No 1) CA 21-Dec-2000
The first two claimants sold exclusive rights to photograph their wedding to the third claimant. A paparrazzi infiltrated the wedding and then sold his unauthorised photographs to the defendants, who now appealed injunctions restraining them from . .
Appeal fromA v B plc and Another QBD 10-Sep-2001
The applicant, a professional footballer, sought an injunction to prevent the defendant newspaper and the woman second defendant from publishing or disclosing details of a sexual relationship between them. He succeeded. There was no public interest . .

Cited by:
CitedCampbell v Mirror Group Newspapers plc CA 14-Oct-2002
The newspaper appealed against a finding that it had infringed the claimant’s privacy by publishing a photograph of her leaving a drug addiction clinic.
Held: The claimant had courted publicity, and denied an involvement in drugs. The defence . .
CitedCream Holdings Limited and others v Banerjee and The Liverpool Daily Post and Echo Limited CA 13-Feb-2003
The defendants considered publication of alleged financial irregularities by the claimant, who sought to restrain publication. The defendants argued that under the Act, prior restraint should not be used unless a later court would be likely to . .
CitedRe S (A Child) CA 10-Jul-2003
The mother of the child on behalf of whom the application was made, was to face trial for murder. The child was in care and an order was sought to restrain publiction of material which might reveal his identity, including matters arising during the . .
CitedCampbell v Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd (MGN) (No 1) HL 6-May-2004
The claimant appealed against the denial of her claim that the defendant had infringed her right to respect for her private life. She was a model who had proclaimed publicly that she did not take drugs, but the defendant had published a story . .
CitedX, A Woman Formerly Known As Mary Bell v Stephen O’Brien, News Group Newspapers Ltd MGN Ltd QBD 21-May-2003
An injunction effective against the world, was granted to restrain any act to identify the claimant in the media, including the Internet. She had been convicted of murder when a child, and had since had a child herself. An order had been granted . .
CitedJameel and Another v Wall Street Journal Europe Sprl (No 2) CA 3-Feb-2005
The claimant sought damages for an article published by the defendant, who argued that as a corporation, the claimant corporation needed to show special damage, and also that the publication had qualified privilege.
Held: ‘It is an established . .
CitedDouglas and others v Hello! Ltd and others (No 3) CA 18-May-2005
The principal claimants sold the rights to take photographs of their wedding to a co-claimant magazine (OK). Persons acting on behalf of the defendants took unauthorised photographs which the defendants published. The claimants had retained joint . .
CitedMcKennitt and others v Ash and Another QBD 21-Dec-2005
The claimant sought to restrain publication by the defendant of a book recounting very personal events in her life. She claimed privacy and a right of confidence. The defendant argued that there was a public interest in the disclosures.
Held: . .
CitedAsh and Another v McKennitt and others CA 14-Dec-2006
The claimant was a celebrated Canadian folk musician. The defendant, a former friend, published a story of their close friendship. The claimant said the relationship had been private, and publication infringed her privacy rights, and she obtained an . .
See AlsoA v B and Another CA 28-Mar-2002
. .
CitedRST v UVW QBD 11-Sep-2009
The applicant sought an interim and without notice injunction preventing the defendant from disclosing confidential information covered by an agreement between the parties.
Held: The order was made on a without notice application because there . .
CitedMGN Limited v United Kingdom ECHR 18-Jan-2011
The applicant publisher said that the finding against it of breach of confidence and the system of success fees infringed it Article 10 rights to freedom of speech. It had published an article about a model’s attendance at Narcotics anonymous . .
CitedFerdinand v MGN Limited QBD 29-Sep-2011
The claimant, a famous footballer, complained that an article by the defendant relating an affair he had had, had infringed his right to privacy. The defendant relied on its right to freedom of expression. The claimant had at an earlier stage, and . .
CitedGoogle Inc v Vidal-Hall and Others CA 27-Mar-2015
Damages for breach of Data Protection
The claimants sought damages alleging that Google had, without their consent, collected personal data about them, which was resold to advertisers. They used the Safari Internet browser on Apple products. The tracking and collation of the claimants’ . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Information, Media, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.167751