Earlier post 12th April 2016

The Supreme Court has ruled that the "celebrity" injunction in PJS v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2016] UKSC 26 is to remain in place - Supreme Court UK Judgments.  The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeal erred in law and therefore substituted its own decision.

The press summary states - "The central issue is whether the trial judge is likely to grant a permanent injunction.  Balancing all these factors, the majority concludes that PJS is likely to establish at trial that the proposed publication by NGN constitutes a serious breach of his and his family’s privacy rights, with no countervailing public interest on the present evidence, and that he is likely to be granted a permanent injunction notwithstanding the internet and social media publication."

Whilst stories of sexual activity and infidelity might sell certain newspapers, it is interesting that the Supreme Court's press summary states - "There is not, on its own, any public interest in the legal sense in the disclosure of private sexual encounters even if they involve infidelity or more than one person at the same time, however famous the individual(s) involved."

Furthermore - "It is essential to distinguish between the claims for breach of privacy and for breach of confidence. The widespread availability of the information in the public domain may well mean that PJS would face difficulties in obtaining a permanent injunction in so far as his claim is based on confidentiality, but different considerations apply to privacy claims, where the impact of any additional disclosure on the likely distress to PJS and his family, and the degree of intrusion or harassment, continues to be highly relevant. The question is whether the injunction can still serve a useful purpose. It is important to consider the medium and form of the previous publication: there is a qualitative difference in intrusiveness and distress between the disclosures on the internet which have occurred and the media storm which would follow from publication by the English media in hard copy, together with unrestricted internet coverage of the story."

Is the law therefore an ass?

The court said - "The Court is well aware of the lesson which King Canute gave his courtiers. Unlike Canute, the courts can take steps to enforce its injunction pending trial. As Page 3 to the Mail Online’s portrayal of the law as an ass, if that is the price of applying the law, it is one which must be paid.  Nor is the law one sided; on setting aside John Wilkes’ outlawry for publishing The North Briton, Lord Mansfield said that the law must be applied even if the heavens fell: R v Wilkes (1768) ...... It is unlikely that the heavens will fall at our decision. It will simply give the appellant, his partner and their young children a measure of temporary protection against further and repeated invasions of privacy pending a full trial which will not have been rendered substantially irrelevant by disclosure of relatively ancient sexual history."

Given the fact of publication in other legal jurisdictions (including Scotland) it is obvious that not everyone will agree with the majority.  Lord Toulson (dissenting) did not.  He argued that there is a need for caution in preventing publication of what is already widely known otherwise public respect for the law might be lost and the courts may appear to be out of touch with reality.


The articles on Inforrms Blog are excellent.  That blog specialises in media law.   For example, Supreme Court allows appeal in PJS celebrity injunction case.

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