Privacy Persecutions

December 1, 2009 at 9:59 pm (Media issues) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Mr Justice David Eady, the High Court Judge who presided over a number of high-profile court cases which turned media law on its head, today said that judges who made these decisions were becoming a target for the media to vent their anger at.

Speaking at a conference by the human rights organisation Justice and legal publishers Sweet and Maxwell, Eady said he had been subjected to personal attacks and abuse by the media after his decisions in some high-profile privacy cases, especially the Max Mosely case.

This issue came to a head at the Society of Editors Conference last year, when Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, attacked Eady for creating a common law on privacy. Dacre and the Daily Mail had previously been ordered to pay a massive £60,000 to Mr Mosley after exposing him for his tendency for sadomasochistic sex sessions and implying there was a Nazi theme to the encounters.

Dacre had obviously been lashing out as a scorned man who had been firmly put in his place.  But his attack was an incredibly personal one on Eady.

But Eady made a valid point in his speech today. Parliament’s lack of willingness to legislate on the issue of privacy and the media has forced judges, particularly Eady, who is the expert on the matter, to make the law. They have not had much of a choice, which leaves them directly in the firing line when it does not go the media’s way.

The decision in the Mosely case was a landmark one, and opened up floodgates for numerous other celebrities, including Sienna Miller and Ashley Cole to cite privacy as their defence against the newspaper who intruded into their privacy lives. Whether celebrities deserve their privacy is another topic for debate.

The whole situation is a mess, leaving editors and reporters not sure of what they can and can’t print or where the line in drawn. The same with those whose privacy is invaded.  Previously the law looked at confidentiality and there was nowhere else to look for guidance on the privacy issue when it started to come up as an issue in the court.

Clarification is needed on the matter, so judges, reporters, editors and any victims can be clear. At the moment, each case is resting on one individual, the judge (which is usually Eady) who then has to take any repercussions of being brave enough to stand against the national press. Parliament needs to legislate, as the longer the issue goes on, the more confusing it will become.

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