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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 June, 2003, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Cox privacy case 'a watershed'
Sara Cox and Jon Carter
Cox married DJ Jon Carter in Ireland
A successful human rights case against a tabloid newspaper by Radio 1 disc jockey Sara Cox could prove a watershed, according to media experts.

The disc jockey sued The People after it published unauthorised nude photographs of her while she was on honeymoon in 2001.

Cox could reportedly receive 50,000 in damages, plus costs against the paper and the agent who sold the photographs, after the settlement at the High Court.

She pursued legal action against the paper after first going to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), and receiving a printed apology.

Media lawyer Mark Stephens said the case could prompt more and more people to seek action in the courts.

It is not considered a landmark victory as Cox is not the first person to seek legal redress after first approaching the PCC.

We sorted out this matter speedily and with the full consent of Cox's agent, we never ducked or dodged
Guy Black
PCC's director

But Mr Stephens, of solicitors Finers, Stephens and Innocent, said: "This is the most high profile case of its kind.

"For a number of years now we have thought that damages in privacy cases are likely to be quite low. The money awarded here strikes a parity with libel cases."

Significance

BBC media correspondent Nick Higham said Cox's victory was seen as significant because it was the clearest indication yet the courts were prepared to acknowledge the existence of a privacy right.

The 28-year-old was on holiday in the Seychelles with her newlywed husband, Jon Carter, in October 2001.

They were swimming and sunbathing on a private island.

The legal editor of The Telegraph, Joshua Rosenburg, said the case would not have any effect on future cases.

"It's not as significant as people are making out because the crucial thing about this is that it was a settlement rather than a decision by the court.

"In legal terms that is not a precedent, that is not binding on any other case."

He said that maybe The People settled to avoid a costly court case.

"Because this is such an interesting and important and developing part of the law it might have gone to the House of Lords and cost a huge amount of money."

After the People published the pictures of the couple, Cox complained to the PCC which persuaded the paper to print an apology.

Breach of confidence

But Cox was not satisfied and sued the People, complaining that her right to privacy had been breached under the Human Rights Act.

Her victory may prompt other celebrities who have won apologies from the media to launch civil cases.

It will also raise questions about the self-regulation of the press and the strength of the PCC, which is a voluntary watchdog.

Under the PCC editors' code of practice, people in a private place are protected from photographs.

But the People, which argued it did not know the beach was private, escaped censure from the PCC.

'Dodged'

The PCC's director, Guy Black, told the Guardian: "We sorted out this matter speedily and with the full consent of Cox's agent. We never ducked or dodged."

Although there is no privacy law in the UK, legislation could be inevitable as a series of court cases has highlighted the problem.

The law of confidence was enough to win Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas their case against Hello! magazine.

A High Court judge said the couple's commercial confidence was breached when Hello! infringed on the couple's exclusive 1m deal with rival OK!.

A year ago, the Mirror was ordered to pay 3,500 damages to Naomi Campbell for publishing pictures of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nick Higham
"This is the latest in a string of cases"



SEE ALSO:
Why privacy is still an issue
11 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
Zeta Jones wins Hello! damages
11 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
Supermodel wins privacy case
27 Mar 02  |  UK News
I'm staying, says Radio 1 DJ Cox
16 Jan 03  |  Entertainment
Complaint against DJ Cox fails
28 Nov 02  |  Entertainment


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