Privacy claims against the press
If your privacy has been breached by the press, we can help you seek redress.
Do I have a right to privacy to prevent intrusion by the press?
Yes, a right to privacy is now established in English domestic law. Where this is no justification for a breach of privacy, you may be entitled to seek damages (compensation) and an injunction (court order) prohibiting the publication of further private information. Where publication has not yet occurred, but is threatened, you may be able to seek an injunction restraining publication. This is sometimes referred to as a 'gagging order'.
What information is private?
Information is private when the subject can be said to have a 'realistic expectation of privacy' in relation to it. This is an objective test and is highly fact-sensitive. Information relating to an individual's sex life, health and finances is often considered private. In every case it is necessary to assess the precise nature of the information and the individual's circumstances. For example, health information relating to an HIV diagnosis will normally be considered private, whilst the fact an individual once had chicken pox will probably not. Where an individual's private information is already in the public domain, they may lose any expectation of privacy, particularly if they caused this (although this is not always the case).
What is the difference between “private” and “confidential” information and the legal bases for such claims?
“Private information” is personal information which is private because of its nature; for example, because it concerns an individual’s health or sex life. Privacy claims are brought under the common law tort [legal wrong] of “misuse of private information” which gives effect to individual’s “right to respect for a private life” under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
“Confidential information” is effectively “secret” information. It may be confidential by virtue of an agreement (e.g. an employment contract), an established relationship (e.g. doctor-patient) or simply because it is information which has the necessary nature and quality of confidence and is imparted in circumstances which import an obligation of confidence. The law of breach of confidence is a well-established equitable doctrine in English law.
Information is often both private and confidential. As such, privacy claims may be brought as both a misuse of private information and breach of confidence.
Additionally, a claim may also be brought under the UK General Data Protection Regulation ('UK GDPR'). This is a domestic statute, based on EU legislation, which requires an individual's personal data to be processed fairly, accurately, lawfully and proportionately. Whilst the press enjoy certain exemptions in relation to GDPR claims, its ambit is wider than privacy claims.
When can the publication of private information be justified?
Privacy claims often concern a conflict between an individual's privacy rights under Article 8 of the ECHR and a publisher's 'freedom of expression' rights under Article 10 of the ECHR. In these circumstances, the Court will need to perform what is known as 'the ultimate balancing act'. A publisher's Article 10 rights might prevail where there is an arguable overriding public interest. An example of this might be where a publication exposes wrongdoing or hypocrisy, despite there being a prima facie breach of privacy or confidence.
Can the press publish 'kiss and tell' stories?
Generally-speaking this will give rise to a privacy claim, unless details of the relationship are already a matter of wide public knowledge. This is because there is a difference between the legal concept of 'public interest' and 'what the public is interested in'. The latter may include 'tittle-tattle' and gossip; the former normally does not. An exception to this might be where the story exposes hypocrisy or wrongdoing; for example, where a member of the government is arguably breaching lockdown rules they have promoted by having an illicit affair. However, even in these circumstances there is a question over what content should be published, i.e. whether it should be limited to information confirming a relationship or could include photographs and/or videos.
Why should I instruct Brett Wilson LLP?
Over the years we have helped thousands of public figures, HNWIs, businesses and professionals enforce their privacy rights. Our highly-regarded media and communications law department is unique because all our solicitors work exclusively in this field. This means that our clients receive the best possible advice and representation, thus maximising their prospects of success.
Privacy law is notoriously complex and it is generally ill-advised to instruct non-specialist lawyers. Our work and client care is of the highest standard. All cases are run by a specialist media law solicitor. Every matter has partner involvement. If there is a good settlement to be negotiated, we are confident we are well placed to achieve it. If there is a case to be litigated, we are confident we can help you seek the best result.
When your claim is asserted on Brett Wilson LLP's letterhead, you can be sure it will be taken seriously. We advance claims against the press every week and are well-respected within newspapers' legal departments. Where a newspaper has made a mistake it will normally be possible to reach a relatively prompt resolution. Where this is not possible and it is necessary to go to court, we have long-standing working relationships with the best media law KCs and junior barristers and can draft them into your team.
As well as being listed in the prestigious Legal 500, Chambers and Partners and The Times Best Law Firms directories as a leading firm in the fields of defamation, privacy and reputation management law, partners Iain Wilson, Max Campbell and Tom Double are all individually recognised as leading individuals. Iain Wilson and Max Campbell are additionally recommended by the Spear's 500 HNWI directory for their reputation management work. Iain Wilson is also recommended in the Tatler Address Book. Most importantly, the firm receives excellent feedback from its clients and contemporaries.
Litigation can be stressful, time consuming and costly. Therefore at the outset of your case we will conduct a cost benefit analysis with you. We will talk you through this process. We offer honest and pragmatic advice to our clients. We will always consider alternative options, including asserting other causes of action (such as defamation and the misuse of private information), approaching intermediaries or PR work.
How do I instruct Brett Wilson LLP?
The first step is to attend a preliminary consultation. At the consultation we will advise you on the merits of any claim, talk through the relevant practical and legal issues, and set out your options. We will review relevant documentation ahead of the consultation. The consultation will help you understand your position and allow you to make an informed decision about what action to take.
Consultations take place in our London offices or by Zoom/Teams/telephone. We can also travel to you.
To request a consultation please send us an email, complete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 3944 7390. If emailing or using the online form, please provide a short outline of your situation.
Details of the cost of a consultation will be provided following your enquiry.
We regret that we are unable to review your case, consider papers or provide advice prior to a consultation or without being formally instructed.
We do not offer alternative funding arrangements.
Contact us to request a consultation
Call 020 7183 8950
or send us a message.
Notable reported cases
- Smith v Backhouse  EWCA Civ 874
- Wai v Kywe (2023)
- Evans v McMahon (2023)
- Embery v Grady (2023) (SIOC)
- Global Processing Services (UK) Ltd v Yanpolsky & Anor  EWHC 425 (KB)
- Smith v Backhouse  EWHC 3011 (KB)
- Smith v Backhouse (2022) (SIOC)
- Dew v Mills-Nanyn  EWHC 1925 (QB)
- Haviland v The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency Ltd & Anor  EWHC 1688 (QB)
- GUH v KYT  EWHC 1854 (QB)
- Hopkinson v British Mensa Limited (2021) (SIOC)
- Blackledge v Persons Unknown  EWHC 1994
- Haviland v The Andrew Lownie Literary Agency Ltd & Anor  EWHC 143 (QB)
- Wright v Ver  EWCA Civ 672
- JQL v NTP  EWHC 1349 (QB)
- Riley & Anor v Heybroek  EWHC 1259 (QB)
- Al Sadik v Sadik  EWHC 2717 (QB)
- Morgan v Times Newspapers Ltd and Telegraph Media Group Ltd (2019) (SIOC)
- Morgan v Times Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 1525 (QB)
- Life 2009 Ltd v Lambeth London Borough Council (2019) (SIOC)
- Suttle v Walker  EWHC 396 (QB)
- Zarb-Cousin v Association of British Bookmakers & Anor  EWHC 2240 (QB)
- SWS v Department for Work and Pensions  EWHC 2282 (QB)
- Galloway v Ali-Khan  EWHC 780 (QB)
- Singh v Weayou  EWHC 2102 (QB)
- Guise v Shah  EWHC 1689 (QB)
- Brett Wilson LLP v Persons Unknown  EWHC 2628 (QB)
- QRS v Beach & Anor  EWHC 1489 (QB)
- Myers v Ong (2014) (SIOC)
- Myers v Ryce (2014) (SIOC)
- QRS v Beach & Anor  EWHC 3057 (QB)
- Tamiz v Google Inc  EWCA Civ 68
- The Law Society & Ors v Kordowski  EWHC 3185 (QB)
- Kordowski v Hudson  EWHC 2667 (QB)