Legal brief: Defame academy
3 June 2011 | By Katy Dowell
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Court 10 at the Royal Courts of Justice has had more visitors than usual in the past month as the press fights back against what it perceives as encroaching privacy laws.
Court 10 is where the defamation judges sit and where a handful of lawyers are tussling over whether the right to privacy should triumph over freedom of expression.
These are the lawyers who have helped define how judges interpret the Human Rights Act.
On Friday 20 May the Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger announced the outcome of a year-long review into the supposed abuse of injunctions. He concluded that, although tweaks need to be made to the system, media judges are largely doing their jobs well.
By the end of the day the ‘CTB’ affair had exploded on online social networking site Twitter, and defamation firm Schillings, which is advising Premiership footballer ’CTB’, was publicly branded the bad guy in the case.
This is nothing new for Schillings. It has built a reputation as a Rottweiler by fighting the press, winning itself some big-name clients and not caring about the PR consequences.
The firm counts Naomi Campbell and Gordon Ramsay among its clients. They are both looked after by partner Gideon Benaim, the lawyer who made the claim on behalf of the footballer CTB against Twitter.
Benaim was promoted to partner in 2006. In 2008 he made a real impact on the law when he acted for Harry Potter author JK Rowling in a case against celebrity picture agency Big Pictures in the Court of Appeal. The case concerned pictures taken of Rowling’s son that were then published in the Daily Express.
The ruling, in favour of the author, confirmed that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to privacy and family life, is engaged whenever people have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”, and that can occur at quite an ordinary level.
The footballer affair has not been Benaim’s only foray into the public eye in recent weeks. When Mr Justice Eady lifted an anonymised judgment last month (25 May), he revealed that Gordon Ramsay’s father-in-law Chris Hutcheson, also represented by Benaim, had a second family.
In both these cases Benaim instructed Matrix Chambers’ Hugh Tomlinson QC, who is a regular in Court 10 appearing for claimants.
Tomlinson’s firm opponent in the courts is 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square’s Richard Spearman QC, who is instructed regularly by Farrer & Co partner Julian Pike to represent News Group Newspapers (NGN), owner of The Sun.
Farrers’ relationship with the Murdoch empire spans decades and originates from a relationship between NGN head of legal Tom Crone and partner-turned-consultant Robert Clinton. That relationship has now been passed on to Pike.
Pike and Spearman will also find themselves up against 5RB’s David Sherborne QC and other Schillings favourites, including One Brick Court’s Andrew Caldecott QC, who acted forAssociated Newspapers on a privacy case involving former RBS boss Fred Goodwin case.
This small band of barristers and lawyers is playing a high-stakes game of tug-of-war - and others outside the court want to get in on the act.
For an extended version of this article go to: http://www.thelawyer.com/the-court-10-stars-shaping-the-law-on-privacy/1008104.article