Carter-Ruck privacy victory sets precedent

Media law firm Carter-Ruck has won an important case that is expected to have far-reaching repercussions for the UK’s press.

The firm, acting for Canadian singer-songwriter Loreena McKennitt, fought off a last-ditch attempt by boutique David Price Solicitors to overturn a Court of Appeal ruling that upheld her right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Law Lords rejected an application by McKennitt’s former friend and employee Niema Ash for permission to appeal against rulings that she acted in breach of confidence by publishing a 2005 book about the singer.

McKennitt won £5,000 in damages and an injunction that restricted further publication of identified passages in Travels With Loreena McKennitt: My Life As A Friend.

Ash’s lawyers denied that she was bound by any duty of confidence, arguing that the information was so “banal, inconsequential or anodyne” as not to have any “quality of confidence”. But the Lords refused Ash’s leave to appeal, saying the petition for appeal “did not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance”.

The Lords’ decision means the law protecting the privacy of famous people is significantly strengthened.

Carter-Ruck partner Mark Thomson, leading for McKennitt, said: “The judgment has helped define the breadth of privacy rights, the relevance of accuracy in the material disclosed and the extent to which the public interest is served by mere curiosity.”

Solicitor advocate David Price advised Ash. Thomson instructed Desmond Browne QC of 5 Raymond Buildings.