Deayton's secret weapon in privacy case: Spearman
17 June 2002
19 December 2013
11 November 2013
29 May 2014
14 July 2014
3 June 2014
Will privacy laws swing in the favour of newspapers that wish to publish sordid details of a male celebrity's sexual activities, or to the personalities who want to keep the more juicy details of their lives to themselves? It may depend on which side continues to instruct defamation silk Richard Spearman.
Neil Wallis, editor of the Sunday People, who instructed Spearman and won in the Flitcroft and Theakston hearings, thinks the silk is close to single-handedly defining what a privacy law should be.
"Spearman is shaping privacy law," he told The Lawyer. "In every case he is whittling away at the grey areas," Wallis said. For example, in Flitcroft and Theakston, Spearman helped to define that sexual relations are not something that should be automatically kept private especially, as in Jamie Theakston's case, if sexual acts are performed in a public place.
Spearman is not the only silk who keeps surfacing on high-profile privacy cases. The man who suffered at Spearman's hands in Mr Justice Ouseley's judgments on Flitcroft and Deayton is highly-rated intellectual property QC Alastair Wilson, head of chambers at 19 Old Buildings. He acted for Flitcroft when his antics were eventually allowed to surface, and for the The Mail on Sunday which lost out to Deayton on 8 June.
Last Saturday, Wilson would not have been a happy man. While Spearman was ensconsed in Ouseley's house with Deayton, Angus Deayton's girlfriend and his solicitor, senior partner of Schillings, Keith Schilling, Wilson was stuck at home in Norfolk, unable to get to London in time for the hearing. He was notified that Deayton was going for an injunction at 11am that morning. The hearing was scheduled for 3pm.
A source from the Deayton camp told The Lawyer that the Mail on Sunday was informed of the injunction hearing the previous Friday evening but Wilson says he did not find out until the following day.
"There had been an indication of concern on the Friday evening. I found out there was to be an injunction on Saturday morning. I asked them to organise it so all of us could be on a speakerphone, as I couldn't get there in time, but the other side were staying at the judge's house. I didn't really want to go there anyway as I was enjoying being at home. Doing these hearings over the phone is a good thing and it is definitely not uncommon. It would have been better if both sides were there," Wilson said.
Wilson does not think it was unfair that the Deayton camp had their case heard over the judge's dining table while he appeared as a remote voice over the speakerphone. But The Lawyer understands that Schillings was fairly chuffed about the situation.
Perhaps Wilson could have got there in time. The hearing was delayed by an hour as Schilling forgot to bring the speakerphone to Ouseley's house. Schilling was duly despatched to the local Dixons to buy one. It cost £30. The firm would not comment on whether it added the sum to Deayton's bill.
The Angus Deayton and Jamie Theakston judgments have delivered mixed messages. Ouseley allowed newspapers to publish written material about TV presenter Jamie Theakston's escapades in a London brothel but since then has granted Deayton an injunction preventing the The Mail on Sunday from publishing further details about him. Spearman won both cases, Theakston for The Mirror Group and Deayton for the claimant. Both were heard in front of the judge who, coincidentally, was Spearman's old head of chambers at 4/5 Gray's Inn Square, emphasising the small world of the defamation bar. The Deayton case was heard on 8 June at Ouseley's house.
Spearman also won the Sunday People its right to publish details of Blackburn footballer Garry Flitcroft's extra-marital affairs in front of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf.
Privacy is an uncertain legal concept. It developed from the right to a private and family life outlined in the 1998 Human Rights Act, but the Court of Appeal has strongly indicated that there will be no such thing as a 'new' law on privacy. It is currently a shaky composite of the old laws of data protection, intellectual property and breach of confidence. To keep winning cases based on a law that no one is sure exists is no mean feat for Spearman.