Paul Weller has won £10,000 privacy damages for three of his children whose faces were “plastered” over a newspaper website.
The singer, 55, sued Associated Newspapers, the publishers of MailOnline, for misuse of private information on behalf of daughter Dylan, who was 16 when the seven unpixellated pictures appeared online in October 2012, and twin sons John-Paul and Bowie, who were 10 months old.
The former frontman of The Jam and the Style Council, who was seeking £45,000 damages in total, was not at London's High Court to hear the ruling by Mr Justice Dingemans. It is the UK’s first significant privacy trial since July 2012.
Seven pictures were published after a paparazzo followed Mr Weller and his children on a shopping trip through the streets of Santa Monica, California, taking photos without their consent despite being asked to stop. The article was headlined: “A family day out: Paul Weller takes wife Hannah and his twin sons out for a spot of shopping in the hot LA sun,” incorrectly referring to Dylan as Mr Weller’s wife. The couple said the shots were “plainly voyeuristic”.
Associated Newspapers argued that they were entirely innocuous and inoffensive images taken in public places and that Paul Weller and Hannah, 28, the mother of John-Paul and Bowie, had previously chosen to open up their private family life to public gaze to a significant degree in interviews and on social media.
David Sherborne, lawyer for the Weller family, said Mrs Weller had not been in the public eye before her marriage and had taken active steps to prevent their faces being seen in the media. He said photos taken in the street were a “blatant impediment to the natural social progress of children”.
Andrew Terry, partner and media expert at global law firm Eversheds, said: “The publisher made much of the historic images and comments about his children that had been widely published with approval from Mr Weller.
However, the MailOnline would still need to show that its interest in publishing on this occasion outweighed the right to privacy. Given there was no genuine public interest debate at stake here, and given the ages of the children involved, the MailOnline’s right to publish was unlikely to prevail.”
Mrs Weller said on Wednesday: “I’m pleased for our children. We didn’t want any money. We wanted to make sure they couldn’t harass and publish photos of our children again.”
A spokesman for Associated Newspapers said the company will appeal. He said: “This judgment has wide-ranging and serious consequences not only for local, national and international digital journalism but for anyone posting pictures of children on social networks.”