Prostitutes have legal right to tell all, court rules

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The Independent Online

A high court judge who allowed details to be published of the visit to a brothel by Top of the Pops presenter Jamie Theakston said yesterday that prostitutes had a right to kiss and tell.

Giving his reasons for his judgment, Mr Justice Ouseley said that there was no law preventing a prostitute from selling her story and suggested that if the presenter wanted to keep his meeting confidential he should have offered her more money.

The account of Mr Theakston's visit to a Mayfair brothel just before Christmas was published by the Sunday People on January 26 after the judge rejected the BBC presenter's arguments for granting him an injunction.

Giving his reasons yesterday Mr Justice Ouseley said the law of confidentiality should be judged from the point of view of the prostitute as well as her client.

"If a well-known man has sexual relations with a prostitute in a brothel, the desire on his part to keep their actions and relationship confidential and the desire on the part of the other to exploit their actions and relationship commercially are irreconcilable."

He said Theakston could have offered money for confidentiality which the prostitute might have agreed to or refused. But he said there was nothing inherent in the nature of a brothel which meant that everything that "transpired" inside was confidential.

His reasoning appears to depart from a decision by another High Court judge who recently ruled in favour of a Premiership footballer's application to stop the same newspaper from publishing a story about his sexual relations with a lap dancer and another woman. That case is now the subject of an appeal to be decided by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf.

Mr Justice Ouseley said yesterday that other stories concerning Mr Theakston's personal relationships with well-known personalities had not attracted complaints from him about intrusion into privacy. "The claimant cannot complain if the publicity given to his sexual activities is less favourable in this instance."

He said Mr Theakston was employed by the BBC and was projected at younger viewers and to listeners as a suitable person for them to respect.

The judge said the more Mr Theakston's lawyers had objected to the article on the grounds that it would damage their client's employment, the more it was emphasising the public interest in its publication.

Mr Theakston, 31, who is not married, had told the judge that he had been out drinking with friends in the West End and Soho and had asked a minicab driver to take them to somewhere where they could get a drink after the bar they were in had closed.

He said they were offered drinks and a private strip routine but refused and left, but he returned later with a friend.

The judge said: "He was then ushered into a room on his own by a girl who 'performed a sex act on me'. He described how 'three girls then entered', he became aware that someone, without his consent, was taking photographs of him."

He told the judge that by this time he was very drunk and partially undressed by the girls and realised he was in a brothel and left.

The newspaper insisted the venue was obviously a brothel and said Theakston had instigated the sexual activities and that other customers, recognising him, had followed him into the "dungeon", a basement equipped with a rack and other trappings.

The judge said: "It is surprising that it was not apparent to the claimant on his first arrival that he was in a brothel and that that only became apparent on his return and after he had engaged in sexual activities beyond the strip routine offered on his first visit."

He said he approached Theakston's evidence "with some scepticism".

Mr Justice Ouseley said he refused to grant an injunction over the article, saying: "I consider that the scales would be likely to come down in favour of the freedom of expression of the newspaper and of the prostitutes unless it was clear that there was a strong case of inhibiting it". But he agreed that any publication of the photographs could constitute an intrusion into his private and personal life and would do so in a "peculiarly and humiliating and damaging way".