Mr Justice Eady has come under attack from the Daily Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre for bringing privacy laws in by the back door.
Dacre, speaking at the Society of Editors’ annual conference in Bristol, criticised Eady J’s ruling that the News of the World (NotW) had breached Formula 1 chief Max Mosley’s privacy after secretly filming him taking part in a sex orgy (The Lawyer, 4 August ).
The Mail chief said the “arrogant and amoral” judgments of Eady J were “inexorably and insidiously” imposing a privacy law on the British Press.
“If Gordon Brown wanted to force a privacy law, he would have to set out a bill, arguing his case in both Houses of Parliament, withstand public scrutiny and win a series of votes,” said Dacre. “Now, thanks to the wretched Human Rights Act, one judge with a subjective and highly relativist moral sense can do the same with a stroke of his pen.”
Many in the legal profession, however, have come out in support of Eady J’s judgment.
Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, senior counsel at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, said it was not always acceptable for public figures’ private lives to be reported and Mosley’s situation was on such case.
“Of course, if I’m acting hypocritically or I’m accountable, or there’s something that may affect what I do in my public life which emerges from my private life, then that should be published,” said Falconer.
The Guardian News & Media director of editorial legal services, Nuala Cosgrove, also put her weight behind Eady.
“Paul Dacre’s speech was unfairly biased against Mr Justice Eady,” said Cosgrove. “It’s true that he reserves the majority of the interesting cases to himself but surely a privacy law built up through judicial precedence is preferable to one legislated for by MPs whose self interest might outweigh public interest and freedom of expression.”
A spokesman from Judicial Communications Office said: “Judges determine privacy cases in accordance with the law and the particular evidence presented by both parties. Any High Court judgment can be appealed to the Court of Appeal.”
Read the our feature on the tension between the UK press and the judiciary here.