Supermodel wins landmark privacy battle against tabloid

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The Independent Online

The supermodel Naomi Campbell yesterday won her claim for damages against The Mirror in a landmark case which lawyers said had helped create a new right to privacy for celebrities.

The newspaper was ordered to pay Ms Campbell £3,500 for publishing details about her treatment at Narcotics Anonymous in London last year. It is also liable for £200,000 in legal costs. Mr Justice Morland ruled that even publicity-seeking celebrities were entitled to, "some space of privacy" and that details about her therapy, "clearly bore the badge of confidentiality".

Ms Campbell said the ruling had vindicated her decision to fight the case in court. "I just wanted to go and fight for something I thought was very important to me and having the privacy to take care of myself, to better my life, to change the way I was, and to become the way I am now," she said.

But Piers Morgan, the editor The Mirror, dismissed the judgment as a "joke" and said the newspaper would lodge an appeal. He also said it would be making a formal complaint to Scotland Yard for Ms Campbell to be investigated for perjury after the judge said he believed she had lied on oath.

Last night lawyers said that the ruling was significant because it built on the judgment by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, earlier this month, which acknowledged for the first time that the courts could uphold an individual's right to privacy. In that case a Premiership footballer, involved in adulterous relationships with a lap dancer and a nanny, was told that his privacy had not been infringed. He has until the end of the week to appeal.

Yesterday Ms Campbell was awarded £2,500 for her claims in breach of confidentiality and breach of duty under the 1998 Data Protection Act plus £1,000 aggravated damages over a subsequent article in The Mirror which compared her with a "chocolate soldier".

In a written ruling, the judge said he believed the newspaper had illegally gained details of the model's Narcotics Anonymous meetings in west London last year. Ms Campbell was pictured leaving a session in a community centre. A reporter then attended another meeting in a bookshop after what the newspaper initially described as "stroke of luck" in spotting the model on 30 January, 2001.

The judge ruled that the information had in fact come from either a fellow NA patient or a member of Ms Campbell's staff. Both would have been bound by a duty of confidence towards the model.

Keith Schilling, the model's lawyer said: "This is a landmark case. It establishes that anyone in the public eye, whether through choice or inadvertence, is entitled to protection for his or her private lives."

Geoff Steward, a partner at the City law firm Macfarlanes, said: "Personality rights and in particular the right to privacy are being extended following the introduction of the Human Rights Act."