Media law firm Schillings scored a victory in the Court of Appeal today (7 May), which held that the privacy of client and Harry Potter author JK Rowlings’ five-year-old son had been infringed.
Rowling, who used her married name Joanne Murray, and her husband Dr Neil Murray, brought the case as litigation friends on behalf of their son David.
It came after covert long lens photographs were taken of their then 19-month-old baby while he was being pushed in a buggy on a family outing in 2004.
Schillings senior partner Keith Schilling said the case was a major development in the law of privacy in this country.
“Following the House of Lords’ decision in Campbell v MGN, which established a right of privacy, this case establishes a law of privacy for children in those cases where, understandably, the parents wish to protect their children from intrusive photography by the paparazzi,” said Schilling.
Last August, Mr Justice Patten had initially struck out David’s claim giving judgment in favour of Big Pictures, which has the photographs, leading to Rowling and her husband appealing.
The Court of Appeal judgment ruled that David was permitted protection under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the rights to privacy and a family life.
Master of the Rolls Sir Anthony Clarke held: “If a child of parents who are not in the public eye could reasonably expect not to have photographs of him published in the media, so too should the child of a famous parent.
“In our opinion, it is at least arguable that a child of ‘ordinary’ parents could reasonably expect that the press would not target him and publish photographs of him.”
In a statement issued through Schillings, Rowling and her husband said they were not seeking special privileges for their children, just the ability for their children to grow up like their friends.
“We are immensely grateful to the Court for giving our children protection from covert, unauthorised photography; this ruling will make an immediate and material difference to their lives,” said the statement.
Schillings instructed Richard Spearman QC of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square as lead counsel for David Murray, while Mark Warby QC of 5 Raymond Buildings led for Big Pictures under the instructions of Solomon Taylor & Shaw