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End of the line for Ryan Giggs privacy claim

What was arguably the most high profile case of the last year came to a messy end in the High Court on Friday 2 March 2012 when Tugendhat J refused to reinstate Ryan Giggs claim for the misuse of confidential information.  It had emerged that the claim had automatically been struck out on 18 November 2011 as a result of the Claimants failure to comply with directions.  Upon discovering that the claim had been struck out the Claimant sought relief from sanction under CPR 3.9.

It was argued on behalf of Mr Giggs that the failure to comply with the directions was an administrative oversight by his lawyers and that he should not be denied access to the courts or the right to pursue damages for a breach of his Article 8 [privacy] rights.  The substantive claim was for misuse of confidential information and was based on an article that had appeared in The sun(published by the Defendant News Group Newspapers (NGN)) on 14 April 2011.  The story titled "Footie star's Affair with Big Bro Imogen" did not name Mr Giggs, but in due course the fact that the Claimant was the footie star referred to became very well known, despite the Claimant obtaining an anonymised injunction.  The Claimant sought to hold NGN liable for damages essentially on the basis that it was responsible for instigating a chain of events which ultimately resulted in his privacy being compromised.  On this point Tugendhat J found favour with the Defendants assertion that the claim was dead in the water.  In his written judgment Tugendhat J stated that "It cannot be said that the claim for damages could give rise to any significant award, even if it could give rise to an award at all...There is in my judgment no purpose to be served by granting relief ... and I would refuse to do so."

The high profile nature of the case was a cruel irony for the Claimant who had brought the proceedings in order to secure confidentiality.  The identity of Mr Giggs had been widely circulated on the internet and on Twitter last year. Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming took it on himself to name Mr Giggs in parliamentary proceedings.  Addressing this point in his written ruling Tugendhat J stated "the proceedings were famously anonymised and Mr Giggs was referred to as CTB. What is famous or notorious about this litigation is that the order for Mr Giggs to be anonymised did not achieve its purpose.  The initials CTB have been chanted at football matches when Mr Giggs has been playing for Manchester United. And Mr Giggs has been named in parliament, raising questions as to the proper relationship between parliament and the judiciary

Unbeknownst to the Court, Mr Giggs and NGN had agreed extensions to the timetable, including a general stay in relation to the time NGN had to file a Defence.  Parties may only agree an extension of up to 28 days (without making an application to the court) and must notify the court of any such agreement (CPR 15.5).  The unauthorised extension in this case was of particular concern to Tugendhat J because of the existence of the interim injunction preventing the publication/disclosure of information.  As such injunctions could interfere with the Article 10 (freedom of expression) rights of third parties it was necessary to ensure that matter was tried as promptly as possible. 

The claimant was found to have been a party to two serious and intentional breaches “ one of a court order and one of the rules of court.  This was a basis upon which relief from sanction could be refused.  In dismissing the application, Tugendhat J made it clear that the result was "hardly a victory for NGN" and that the way the case had been conducted by the parties had done "much to undermine confidence in the administration of justice".

A full copy of the judgment can be found below:-


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