Letter: Privacy law

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The Independent Online
Privacy law

YOUR report "PM against privacy law" (12 February) reveals some very confused thinking on this topic at the heart of government.

Upon the incorporation into British domestic law of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), there will be both a right of privacy and a right to freedom of expression. UK judges will have no choice but to balance these rights in any particular decision, effectively creating a tort of breach of privacy with a defence of legitimate public interest; in so doing, they will have regard to the existing body of case law under the ECHR.

In extreme cases, where damages would be an insufficient remedy, the court could prevent publication by injunction; but all the experience of defamation law suggests that such cases would be rare.

It would be wholly wrong for such an extreme power of prior restraint to be exercisable by a voluntary body such as the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). Indeed, following the incorporation of the ECHR into UK domestic law, the usefulness of the PCC may well be called into question generally; as Sir Louis Blom-Cooper rightly observed, "Self-regulation will always protect the self."

PHILIP GOLDENBERG

Woking, Surrey

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