Quotes from caselaw 6: HRH The Duchess of Sussex v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2021] EWCA Civ 1810- Megan Markle successful in defending appeal by Mail on Sunday

An appeal against the finding for summary judgment for her misuse of private information and copyright claim.

The appellant was granted permission appealed the elements of the case on seven grounds:

i) The new evidence issue: Whether the new evidence provided by each of the
parties should be admitted.

ii) The nature of the attack issue: Whether the judge mistakenly failed to
recognise the significance and importance of the People Article’s attack on Mr
Markle.

iii) The reasonable expectation of privacy issue: Whether the judge adopted a
flawed analysis of the factors undermining the Duchess’s alleged reasonable
expectation of privacy.

iv) The appropriate test issue: Whether the judge wrongly stated the test, by
suggesting that the defendant had to justify an interference with the claimant’s
right of privacy, when the proper approach was to balance the competing article 8 and 10 rights.

v) The right of reply issue: Whether the judge wrongly applied a strict test of
necessity and proportionality to Mr Markle’s right of reply to the People Article.

vi) The public interest/article 10 copyright issue: whether the judge failed
properly to evaluate the interference with article 10, saying that it would be a
rare case in which freedom of expression would outweigh copyright.


vii) The fair dealing copyright issue: whether the judge wrongly relied on his
privacy analysis to reject the fair dealing defence to breach of copyright, bearing
in mind the limited scope of the copyright in the Letter and the wide scope of
the concept of reporting current events.

The Sir Jeoffery Vos decided against the defendant on all grounds dismissing the appeal, in a unanimous judgment, stating summarily:

Essentially, whilst it might have been proportionate to disclose and publish a very small part of the Letter to rebut inaccuracies in the People Article, it was not necessary to deploy half the contents of the Letter as Associated Newspapers did. As the Articles themselves demonstrate, and as the judge found, the primary purpose of the Articles was not to publish Mr Markle’s responses to the inaccurate allegations against him in the People Article. The true purpose of the publication was, as the first 4 lines of the Articles said: to reveal for the first time [to the world] the “[t]he full content of a sensational letter written by [the Duchess] to her estranged father shortly after her wedding”. The contents of the Letter were private when it was written and when it was published, even if the claimant, it now appears, realised that her father might leak its contents to the media.

p.106

Quotes from caselaw 4: PJS v News Group Newspapers Limited [2016] UKSC 26 – privacy rights are broader than just confidentiality

It is a rare case where an application for a interlocutory injunction succeeds despite an article on the subject already being published. Such was the case in PJS, one of the most significant English law cases concerning privacy law to date.

The leading judgment was handed down by Lord Mance. It concerned the grant of an injunction to keep details of an extra marital affair between a claimant of great renown being published by the press.

Lord Mance observes the fact that privacy is a zonal right justifying protection, differing in character from the right of confidentiality. The esteemed judge highlights previous cases at paragraphs 58 and 59 of the judgment, endorsing the well entrenched approach from the Court of Appeal.

He characterises privacy, rightly, as extending beyond the bounds of confidentiality. In doing so ones private life becomes a space that should remain, in certain circumstances, free from intrusion.

However, claims based on respect for privacy and family life do not depend on confidentiality (or secrecy) alone... “unwanted access to private information and unwanted access to [or intrusion into] one’s … personal space”

Lord Mance at p.58-59

Concluding Lord Mance opined on the capacity of the internet to change perceptions of privacy. He acknowledged that the courts need to remain cognizant of this. In doing so he affirmed the findings of previous caselaw, gave credence to commentators and noted the implications of tweeting and blogging:

 I also accept that, as many commentators have said, that the internet and other electronic developments are likely to change our perceptions of privacy as well as other matters – and may already be doing so. The courts must of course be ready to consider changing their approach when it is clear that that approach has become unrealistic in practical terms or out of touch with the standards of contemporary society. However, we should not change our approach before it is reasonably clear that things have relevantly changed in a significant and long-term way. In that connection, while internet access became freely available in this country only relatively recently, almost all the cases listed at the end of para 59 above were decided since that happened, and many of those cases were decided after blogging and tweeting had become common.

Lord Mance at p.70

TPP has commented further on the PJS case here.

Quotes from caselaw 3: Fairhurst v Woodard (Case No: G00MK161) – A cautionary tale for neigbours implementing surveillance

I am satisfied that the
extent of range to which these devices can capture audio is well beyond the
range of video that they capture, and in my view cannot be said to be
reasonable for the purpose for which the devices are used by the Defendant,
since the legitimate aim for which they are said to be used, namely crime
prevention, could surely be achieved by something less. A great deal of the
purpose could be achieved without audio at all, as is the case with the bulk
of CCTV systems in use in public places in this country, or by a microphone that only picks up sound within a small diameter of the device.


That finding means that I am satisfied that the processing of such audio
data by the Defendant as data controller is not lawful. The extent of the
range means that personal data may be captured from people who are not
even aware that the device is there, or that it records and processes audio
personal data, or that it can do so from such a distance away, in breach of
the first principle.”

Melissa Clarke HHJ. at p.137

In Fairhurst a neighbour complained that use of several cameras, including a Ring doorbell, amounted to nusiance, harassment and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.

The claims of harassment and data protection succeeded. It was, in particular, noted that the audio recording capabilities of the devices were much broader in than the video recording capability. As the above quote shows, the extent processing of the audio recording data was such that it was unlawful under data protection laws.

The audio recording capability of the Ring device extended 40-68ft (12-20m).

Amazon released a statement following the finding in the case: “We strongly encourage our customers to respect their neighbours’ privacy and comply with any applicable laws when using their Ring product.”

The case serves as a cautionary tale for those seeking to implement surveillance around their homes that impinge upon their neighbours.

INFORRM has an excellent case comment for interested readers. As does the Guardian.

Quotes from caselaw 2: Sicri v Assocated Newspapers [2020] EWHC 3541 (QB) – Privacy and suspicion by the state

The rationale for the general rule, that an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of information that they have come under suspicion by the state, is clear: disclosure of such information is likely to have a seriously harmful impact on the person’s reputation, and thus their private life.

Warby J. at p.55

The Sicri case concerned the publication of an article by the Mail Online following the arrest of a man for having a connection with Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi. The Mail Online did not remove the article after the claimants’ release and divulged his name via an alternative spelling, address and other identifiable details.  The claimant was successful and awarded £83,000 in damages as he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of his identity remaining private when his arrest was reported. It should be noted that this reasonable expectation was assessed at pre-charge stage.

The claimant had a right to expect that the defendant would not publish his identity as the 23-year-old man arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Manchester Arena bombing. By 12:47 on 29 May 2017, the defendant had violated that right; it had no, or no sufficient public interest justification for identifying the claimant. It continued to do so. Later, another publisher did the same or similar. But the claimant’s right to have the defendant respect his privacy was not defeated or significantly weakened by the fact that others failed to do so. He is entitled to compensation. The appropriate sum is £83,000 in general and special damages.

Warby J. at 190

This is part of our new “quotes from caselaw” series, looking to bring you short snippets from leading judgments on privacy, which highlight its importance and development.

Quotes from caselaw 1: Campbell v MGN [2004] 2 AC 457 – The importance of privacy to liberty

“Privacy lies at the heart of liberty in a modern state. A proper degree of liberty is essential for the well-being and development of an individual”

– Lord Nicholls, Campbell v MGN [2004] 2 AC 457 at [p.12]

This is part of our new “quotes from caselaw” series, looking to bring you short snippets from leading judgments on privacy, which highlight its importance and development.