Minister's teenage son wins press privacy bid

 

A Cabinet minister's teenage son has won an injunction in the High Court against a tabloid newspaper to stop it from publishing a story about his private life.

The Daily Star Sunday has been prevented from writing about Jonathan Spelman, 17, whose mother is the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, after an application was brought against Express Newspapers on his behalf by her and her husband Mark.

Mr Justice Lindblom upheld an order granted in a brief hearing at the High Court late on Saturday, shortly before the newspaper was due to go to press.

Giving his reasons yesterday for making the order, the judge said the sensitive personal information to which the newspaper's story related attracted a reasonable expectation of privacy.

He pointed out that it was a case of a minor facing the prospect of considerable press scrutiny from a tabloid newspaper.

"There is an additional aspect to this story in that the claimant is the son of a Cabinet minister," he said.

"Thus there is a political dimension which cannot be ignored." The judge added that the information concerned came into the newspaper's possession through a leak.

However, it was not clear how the leak had occurred or who was responsible for it.

He said that publication at this stage would not advance the public interest to a material degree but was likely to have a very significant harmful effect on the teenager.

It was not a case in which the court should take the "exceptional" course of anonymising the proceedings, the judge added.

"Sufficient protection is afforded by the parties being named in the normal way in the proceedings so that the public will be able to identify the claimant as the person who has sought particular injunctive relief against the defendant – but ensuring that the subject matter of the application and the precise nature of the relief granted will not be in the public domain.

"This seemed to me properly to reflect the course which the court ought now normally to take in situations such as these."

The case is due to return to court today, with the newspaper's lawyers reportedly aiming to overturn the injunction.

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