Carina Trimingham, partner of the former cabinet minister Chris Huhne, was left with a massive legal bill yesterday after a judge threw out her invasion of privacy and harassment claim against the Daily Mail.
Mr Justice Tugendhat accused Ms Trimingham of failing to understand how her actions had invited the kind of publicity to which she so strongly objected. He dismissed her claim, refused her leave to appeal, and ordered her to pay £410,000 towards towards the Daily Mail's costs – including £250,000, which is covered by an insurance policy, within 14 days.
The judgment was welcomed by the Daily Mail as a vindication of its reporting staff, but attacked by Ms Trimingham as a potential "blueprint for bullies and bigots".
Ms Trimingham, 44, who worked as a political journalist and PR executive, was propelled into the public eye in June 2010 when Mr Huhne, then Energy Secretary, announced that his 26-year marriage was over because he was in a "serious relationship" with her. At the time she was living with a woman with whom she had entered into a civil partnership in 2007.
The Daily Mail published 65 articles in 15 months which referred to Ms Trimingham's sexuality, describing her as "bisexual" or "lesbian". Many also referred to aspects of her appearance, such as her "boyish cropped, spiky haircut". She described the articles as "highly unpleasant and hurtful" and as having a "cataclysmic interference" in her private life. She also claimed they were homophobic.
In his 82-page judgment, Mr Justice Tugendhat warned that "repeated mocking by a national newspaper of a person by reference to that person's sexual orientation would almost inevitably be so oppressive as to amount to harassment." But in this case, he found that "Ms Trimingham was not the purely private figure she claims to be. Her reasonable expectation of privacy has become limited."
This was mainly because she was having an affair with a Cabinet minister, and acting as his press agent, during a general election campaign in which he put out a leaflet saying how much he valued his family. It also emerged during the trial that she had sold stories to newspapers including gossip about a politician's private life.
Mr Justice Tugendhat added: "Ms Trimingham has shown little sign of recognising how what she herself has done has given rise to the publicity she finds so unwelcome. The difficult situation she found herself in was of her own making."
Outside the court, Ms Trimingham said: "I am extremely disappointed by this judgment. There is a ray of light... the court has accepted today that repeated mocking of a person by a national newspaper by reference to their sexual orientation would almost inevitably be so oppressive as to amount to harassment."
A spokesman for Associated Newspapers, owners of the Daily Mail, said: "This was an important example of the press exercising its right to free speech."