A matter of keeping confidences

Roger Pearson looks at alegal to maintain privacy

Sisters Michelle and Lisa Taylor, cleared of murder two years ago, are waging a new legal battle, this time to preserve their privacy.

They have won a High Court pledge from a nightclub bouncer who campaigned for their release that he will not disclose confidential documents or information about them to the press.

Now the two are heading for a High Court showdown with Bernard O'Mahoney of Basildon, Essex, who they accuse of selling confidential information about them to the press.

Pending the full hearing of their claim, however, they have accepted an undertaking from O'Mahoney, not to infringe their copyright in any letters, notes, interview notes or other literary works written or produced by them. They accuse him of breach of their copyright in such material and breach of confidence.

In return for his undertaking not to sell or use information relating to the private lives of the sisters and their family, which they say was given to him in confidence, they have in turn agreed not to comment to the press about his relationship with their family and friends.

The sisters were freed from prison by the Appeal Court in June 1993 after serving 11 months of jail sentences imposed on them for murdering Alison Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy was stabbed 54 times outside her Battersea, south London, home in 1991.

Michelle Taylor had earlier had a relationship with Shaughnessy's husband. At the recent hearing, at which the undertakings were given, Mr Justice Carnwath was told by the sisters' counsel, John Baldwin QC, that the court action resulted from communications between O'Mahoney and the News of the World which were published on 28 May this year.

The story was later picked up by the South London Press and a further article appeared in the Daily Star.

For O'Mahoney, counsel Gavin Millar said that although a "truce" had been called it was in a war not actively waged by O'Mahoney. He said the newspaper articles were not instigated by O'Mahoney and he claimed that he did not have any documents which could give rise to complaints such as those made against him.

No date has yet been fixed for a full hearing of the case.