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Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 18:54 GMT
A user's guide to privacy
Naomi Campbell
Naomi Campbell: Courts publicity, demands privacy
Supermodel Naomi Campbell has won a privacy case against the Mirror newspaper, which had made public her battle against drug addiction. So just how private can our personal lives be?

Naomi Campbell's lawyer emerged victorious from the High Court on Wednesday after a much publicised battle with the Mirror newspaper.

The supermodel won her case against the paper which last year published a photograph of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones
Privacy can come with a hefty price tag
But it was not an outright victory on the privacy front.

While Justice Sir Michael Morland ruled that celebrities who use the media to buff their own images are entitled to some privacy, Ms Campbell's damages were awarded for breach of confidentiality and of the data protection act.

She won, but in two other recent lawsuits - a TV presenter found in a brothel and an adulterous top footballer - the courts said they had lost their right to privacy.

It was these decisions that were more significant in terms of setting a benchmark for privacy, says Paul Gilbert, lead media lawyer at Finer Stephens Innocent.

Awkward balance

Traditionally in English law, there has been no right to privacy.

Live in the lens
Anna Ford, Amanda Holden and Sara Cox have sought protection from the media under the Human Rights Act
However, Ms Campbell's case - and earlier rulings such as that Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas can sue Hello! magazine for running unauthorised photos from their wedding - has been argued under the European Convention of Human Rights which came into force in October 2000.

Article eight, section one, of the convention states: "Everyone has the right for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence."

Mr Gilbert says the application of this declaration is anything but simple. And it sits awkwardly alongside article 10 which enshrines the right to freedom of expression.

This was exactly what happened to TV presenter Jamie Theakston, who recently tried to suppress an article about his visit to a brothel. The judge ruled that the prostitutes had just as much right to tell their story as he had to want it suppressed.

And because Theakston had previously talked openly about his sex life, the judge said he could not complain if the publicity given to his sexual activities was less favourable in this instance.

Caught on camera

In France, famed for its strict privacy laws, several cases have been won by private individuals who saw their faces splashed across the front pages. Some editors have even begun to blur the features of those in crowd scenes.

crowd on train platform
Is that your face in the crowd?
But in the UK those in a "public situation", such as walking in the street, are fair game for the camera. And when yours is a more famous face, even a quiet beach can be considered public.

Last July, Anna Ford was angered when first the PCC then the High Court refused to agree that paparazzo pictures taken of her on holiday breached her privacy.

The BBC newsreader and her then boyfriend were snapped rubbing suntan lotion on each other. No matter how secluded, it was ruled that a publicly accessible beach in Majorca in August was not a place where she could reasonably have expected privacy.

UK confidential

In Ms Campbell's case, where the tabloid did overstep the mark was in publishing the times and nature of her treatment.

Rose Addis
Rose Addis became a political pawn
Keeping medical information private is the right of any individual.

It was just such a situation that sparked a political row when Downing St discussed with reporters the medical details of Rose Addis, the 94-year-old pensioner allegedly neglected at a London hospital in January.

Thus although Naomi Campbell's victory seems unlikely to set a precedent for a UK privacy law, it would seem the law of confidentiality amounts to the same thing.

See also:

27 Mar 02 | UK
11 Mar 02 | UK
01 Aug 01 | Entertainment
21 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


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