Caroline Spelman's son loses privacy case

 

The High Court refused today to continue a privacy injunction won by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman's teenage son Jonathan.

But the order continues until at least 4pm next Friday to give 17-year-old Mr Spelman, who is suing through his mother and father Mark, an opportunity to ask the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge Mr Justice Tugendhat's ruling.

Mr Spelman was granted the order preventing the publication of sensitive personal information in the Daily Star Sunday by Mr Justice Lindblom at a private hearing earlier this month.

The judge said the information, which was leaked to the newspaper, attracted a reasonable expectation of privacy and publication would not advance the public interest.

But today, Mr Justice Tugendhat concluded that it was "not necessary or proportionate" to continue the injunction.

The court heard that the Spelman family, who were not present, had already incurred legal costs of £60,994.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Tugendhat said that his decision not to continue the injunction until any trial - which would not be before May - was not a "licence" to Express Newspapers or anyone else to publish whatever they chose, or indeed anything at all.

"It is simply a decision not to grant an injunction. If the defendant or anyone else does disclose private information about the claimant, then such disclosure may be the subject of a claim for damages, which may, in an appropriate case, include aggravated damages.

"The question whether or not what has been published is an interference with the claimant's right to privacy will then fall to be decided on the facts as they are found to be."

He added that any publisher who did choose to publish something about Mr Spelman would have in mind that it could no longer be assumed that damages at the very low level of early privacy cases such as Naomi Campbell - who received £3,500 in 2002 - were the limit of the court's powers.

He said: "If a remedy in damages is to be an effective remedy, then the amount that the court may award must not be subject to too severe a limitation.

"Recent settlements in the much publicised phone hacking cases have been reported to be in sums far exceeding what in the past might have been thought to be available to be awarded by the courts."

Contesting the injunction application, Christina Michalos, counsel for Express Newspapers, had said that the case was about "freedom of expression in its purest sense" and the court should not muzzle the "watchdog function of the press".

She denied that the real motivation of the story was political and focused on Jonathan Spelman's mother.

"This is disputed strongly. We say there is an underlying public interest in the story itself."

Mr Justice Tugendhat said Jonathan Spelman played rugby for England in the under-16 and other squads and for Harlequins, but had not played since being injured in a game last September.

"His youth, and his success in public sport, are two of the most important facts at the heart of this case."

He said the newspaper had not told the court what information it intended to disclose, but stated in its evidence that its story highlighted "the pressures on elite athletes from the very beginning of their sporting careers" and the facts of Mr Spelman's story "act as a warning".

The newspaper said the tip-off came from a member of the public unconnected to the Rugby Football Union, Mr Spelman's boarding school or Harlequins and it was not a breach of confidence or sourced from his "inside circle".

Some relevant facts were circulating in rugby circles and were not being treated as confidential, it added.

The judge said that there was little that could be said in a public judgment about the nature of the activity with which the legal action was concerned, except that it was related to Mr Spelman's sporting achievements and aspirations.

Mr Spelman had made clear that any publicity would be most unwelcome and was greatly feared by him and his parents, and the court accepted that even sympathetic coverage would probably have a serious adverse effect.

The judge said the issue of whether Mr Spelman had a reasonable expectation of privacy was one on which each side had a real prospect of success - as was the issue of public interest.

Public debate about how schools and sporting authorities perform their functions with regard to children was important.

He said: "I must make clear that in the present case no one has put in doubt that the school, or anyone else who may be involved, is doing their best to give appropriate priority to the welfare of the claimant.

"But what is appropriate priority, and what is for the welfare of children and young people, is itself a matter fit for public discussion.

"This can be seen from the history of the last 50 years. Opinions can change.

"Discipline by corporal punishment was almost universal in schools in England, until the 1960s, and it was administered by many parents and school teachers who believed that it was in the best interests of the children. It has since come to be regarded as unacceptable.

"On the other hand, the demands made on children for the benefit of sport have increased very greatly over that period.

"Whereas in the past there was relatively little money to be made out of sport by anyone, sport has in recent years generated huge revenues, mostly from broadcasting and other intellectual property rights.

"So there is a risk that those responsible for organising national and international sporting activities may have interests that conflict with the welfare of the children who participate, or aspire to participate, in these activities."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Guru Careers: Sales Director / Business Development Manager

£35 - 45K + COMMISSION (NEG): Guru Careers: A Sales Director / Business Develo...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owne...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness