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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 15:53 GMT
Press versus privacy
Sunday People and other newspapers
Sunday People says this is a victory for all newspapers
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Torin Douglas
By Torin Douglas
BBC Media Correspondent
line

After years of being warned that they were "drinking in the last chance saloon" and could soon face a privacy law, newspapers seem to be winning back some ground.

Monday's ruling by the Appeal Court that a married footballer who had two affairs can be named by newspapers is the second judgment in recent weeks in favour of the press - and against those who would prefer their guilty secrets to remain secret.

This is tremendously important, not just for the tabloid media but the broadsheets and broadcasters as well

Neil Wallis, Sunday People editor

Last month, a judge explained why he allowed a newspaper to report details of a visit to a brothel by the television presenter Jamie Theakston.

Mr Justice Ousley said he had to consider the rights of the prostitutes who had been interviewed by the Sunday People.

He said they had taken a different view of whether the matter was confidential, and the law of confidentiality should not be judged solely from the point of view of "one participant".

Now the People has successfully appealed against an injunction granted by another judge barring it from publishing interviews with the former lovers of the married footballer.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf said the injunction had been "an unjustified interference with the freedom of the press".

Freedom of expression

The footballer has been given three weeks to appeal to the House of Lords, but the decision was hailed as a victory by the paper's editor Neil Wallis.

He said it was not just about "kiss and tell" stories.

"Lord Woolf has said there is no privacy law and this is tremendously important, not just for the tabloid media but the broadsheets and broadcasters as well," he said.
Naomi Campbell
The ruling could affect Naomi Campbell's case

The footballer - like several other celebrities, such as Naomi Campbell - had invoked article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees a right to privacy - and which had been seen by many as a privacy act in all but name.

But the People used the same Act to support its case, citing article 10, which lays down the right to freedom of expression.

Royal thanks

The ruling could have implications for Campbell's privacy case against the Mirror newspaper.

After last month's High Court hearing, judgment was delayed so the judge could take account of Monday's decision.

There was further good news for the tabloids from an unexpected source.

Prince Charles - in a speech to newspaper editors - thanked them for respecting the privacy of his sons, Princes William and Harry (although he also expressed some surprise that they had done so).

But in a speech commemorating 300 years of Fleet Street, he also criticised the "culture of complaining" in Britain and said the press must take some of the blame for being "too ready" to assume the worst case scenario.

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