Grapevine

You read it here first. Schillings, the celebrity law firm par excellence, has finally got the House of Lords to commit to a hearing date for client Naomi Campbell’s long-running privacy case.

The case will be heard on 18 and 19 February. The Daily Mirror, if unsuccessful, will lose over 1m GBP in its own and Campbell’s legal costs.

The question is, why is Campbell putting herself through this again? The supermodel’s experience with this case has so far been miserable beyond belief.

Campbell, who brought the case in early 2001, sued the newspaper for snapping her while she was attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting after she had already publicly declared that she did not take drugs.

She lost an appeal in October 2002. This cost her around 500,000 GBP in legal costs, which she may want to recoup through a win at the Lords, but she probably has earrings worth more than that.

What is incalculable is how much the bad publicity the High Court and Court of Appeal cases – including front page headlines screaming about her drug addiction – cost Campbell. So why bother?

Well, the publicity is likely to be less fierce during the House of Lords hearing. For a start, she does not have to – and probably won’t – turn up. And the Lords, the home of dry legal discussion where the general ambience falls somewhere between an obscure Parliamentary debate Oxford and an OAP bowls tournament, rarely lends itself to a media circus.

The other reason may be that Campbell, for this part of the case, does not have to pay.

Campbell, although she isn’t poor, has transferred to a conditional fee arrangement for the House of Lords hearing. Schillings has decided to apply for a 100 per cent success fee on its costs if she wins.

Nestling somewhere behind the headline coverage of the case was a very interesting argument: if a newspaper is allowed to run pictures of Campbell leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, then surely it is okay to expose anyone receiving confidential medical treatment for alcoholism, gambling or just plain old embarrassing piles.

This is an area of law that needs cleaning up, and when there’s the chance of a 100 per cent success fee attached, it’s easy to see why Schillings has volunteered to take on the challenge.

But a victory will not be Pyrrhic if it means patients can continue with treatment for addictions – unbothered by the paparazzi.