Tugendhat J rejects bid to refer Goodwin privacy case to attorney general

The High Court has refused to refer to the Attorney General a contempt of court action against Associated Newspapers brought by the woman alleged to have had an affair with Fred Goodwin.


Fred Goodwin
Fred Goodwin

The woman, who has not been named by the High Court, had attempted to have Mr Justice Tugendhat refer her case to Attorney General Dominic Grieve after, she claimed, the Daily Mail broke the terms of a court order granting her anonymity.

The woman is alleged to have had an affair with the former RBS head in the run up to the bank’s rescue by the state.

Today Tugendhat J refused her request (see judgment).

On 19 May Tugendhat J lifted an anonymised court order revealing Goodwin to be MNB, the individual who was granted an anonymised order in March by Mrs Justice Sharp preventing publication of details concerning the alleged relationship.

According the claimant, who was represented by Matrix Chambers’ Hugh Tomlinson QC instructed by Olswang partner Geraldine Proudler, on 20 May the Daily Mail published stories with details that revealed her identity.

Furthermore, allegations that she had been promoted twice during the course of the alleged relationship were claimed to be false.

Associated Newspapers, represented by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, which instructed Jonathan Caplan QC of Five Paper Buildings, said it was unknown whether the promotion story was known to be false or not, but that misleading information was included in the story to make the reader less likely to identify the claimant.

“As I remarked in court in response to that submission, another effect of the false information is that it would tend to mislead the reader into believing that it would be in the public interest for the identity of the lady to be disclosed,” J Tugendhat said.

He added that such assertion would give credence to a commentary written by John Hemming MP, which suggested that such information would be in the public interest, despite no public interest argument being forwarded at the original High Court hearing. Hemming’s comment piece appeared next to the report about the woman.

The judge states: “The commentary by Mr Hemming on page 7 and the editorial on page 14 also each persist in a further incorrect statement which tended to mislead the reader into supposing that there was a public interest in the discharge of the injunction which did not in fact exist.”

However, Tugendhat J refused to refer the case to the Attorney General stating that it would not assist him in his enquiries. Nevertheless, he added: “The lady is free to refer the matter to the Attorney General herself and the Attorney General is free to act of his own motion.

“This case has received extensive coverage in very many newspapers and other news media, and has been the subject of public judgments.”

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