Celebrities try to use new law to stop invasion of their privacy

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Naomi Campbell and an unidentified professional footballer will appear today in two separate test cases that could help establish a right to privacy for celebrities in Britain.

The supermodel is suing The Mirror for publishing a photograph of her leaving a meeting last year of Narcotics Anonymous in south London. Her claim for damages for unlawful invasion of her privacy is being fiercely opposed by the Mirror editor, Piers Morgan, who is expected to give evidence at the High Court today.

The second action concerns a "well-known professional footballer" who claims that his privacy was about be invaded by the Sunday People, which was preparing to publish an article accusing him of being involved in two adulterous affairs.

In November, Mr Justice Jack ruled that sexual relationships were by their nature confidential and so deserving of the protection of the law. The court granted an order preventing the media from naming the footballer.

Lawyers for Ms Campbell and the footballer will argue that, under the Human Rights Act, which came into force in October 2000, celebrities can now claim a right to privacy.

Last year, the Court of Appeal recognised that the publication by Hello! magazine of unauthorised photographs of the wedding of the film stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones was a "powerfully arguable case" for invasion of their privacy. Celebrities including Anna Ford, Sara Cox and Amanda Holden have since tried to use the Human Rights Act to keep the paparazzi at bay.

But the courts have yet to rule substantively on the issue of privacy in the context of the Human Rights Act. In 15 months fewer than 10 "privacy" cases have gone to court.