Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers [2004] UKHL 22


Breach of famous model’s reasonable expectation of privacy

Facts

The claimant was supermodel Naomi Campbell (C). She had made public statements that she did not take drugs. The defendant newspaper published articles regarding her drug addiction and showed photographs as she was leaving a group meeting for drug addicts. C sought damages for breach of confidentiality in relation to the covertly taken pictures although accepted that the newspaper was entitled to publish the fact of her addiction and treatment given her previous public statements.

Issue

C was successful at trial where it was held that the information complained of was confidential and publication was not in the public interest. The Court of Appeal allowed the defendant’s appeal on the basis that the additional information of C’s medical treatment was in the public interest and necessary for the journalistic credibility of the story. C appealed to the House of Lords.

Held

The House of Lords held that the correct test to determine whether information was private was to consider whether a reasonable person of ordinary sensibility placed in the same situation as C would find the disclosure of the information offensive. C’s therapy related to her physical and mental health and the assurance of privacy was essential to such treatment. The details of C’s therapy therefore constituted private information which gave rise to a duty of confidentiality. Whilst the free press had a journalistic margin of appreciation in the public interest this had been exceeded. In relation to the photographs taken outside the group meeting, the Court recognised that an individual may have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place and that this expectation was unjustly infringed in this case.

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