Cabinet minister's teenage son loses £60,000 privacy battle


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Indy Politics

The High Court has refused to continue a privacy injunction won by the teenage son of the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, as it was revealed that the court battle has so far cost the Spelman family £61,000.

The order continues until at least 4pm next Friday to give 17-year-old Jonathan Spelman, who is suing through his mother and his father Mark, an opportunity to ask the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge Mr Justice Tugendhat's ruling.

Mr Spelman, a talented rugby player who has represented England at youth level, was granted the order preventing the publication of sensitive personal information in the Daily Star Sunday by Mr Justice Lindblom at a private hearing earlier this month.

The judge said the information, which was leaked to the newspaper, attracted a reasonable expectation of privacy and publication would not advance the public interest.

But yesterday, Mr Justice Tugendhat concluded that it was "not necessary or proportionate" to continue the injunction.

The court heard that the Spelman family, who were not present, had already incurred legal costs of £60,994.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Tugendhat said his decision not to continue the injunction until any trial – which would not be before May – was not a "licence" for Express Newspapers or anyone else to publish whatever they chose, or indeed anything at all.

"It is simply a decision not to grant an injunction," he said. "If the defendant or anyone else does disclose private information about the claimant, then such disclosure may be the subject of a claim for damages."

Contesting the injunction application, Christina Michalos, counsel for Express Newspapers, had said the case was about "freedom of expression in its purest sense" and that the court should not muzzle the "watchdog function of the press".

She denied that the real motivation for the paper was political and focused on Mrs Spelman. "This is disputed strongly," she said. "We say there is an underlying public interest in the story itself."