RPC wins landmark media harassment case for Daily Mail

RPC has successfully defended Associated Newspapers in the first media harassment case to go to trial, after the newspaper group was sued by the partner of MP Chris Huhne, Carina Trimingham.

In a damning judgment Mr Justice Tugendhat dismissed a series of claims of privacy and harassment claims against the Daily Mail, stating that the claimant had expected publicity when details of her relationship with MP Chris Huhne became public.

Claims for aggravated damages because  of the manner in which journalists conducted their enquiries were without merit, the judge said, adding: “On the contrary, I regard it as a further example of the exaggeration of her claim which leads me to doubt her objectivity and so the reliability of her evidence.”

Mishcon de Reya partner Charlotte Harris, who is also leading several of the phone hacking test claims (2 January 2012), instructed Matrix Chambers’ Matthew Ryder QC for Trimingham.

Ryder went head to head with set mate Antony White QC who was instructed by RPC partner Jaron Lewis for Daily Mail parent Associated Newspapers.

Tugendhat J said: “Although the articles are highly defamatory of Ms Trimingham, she makes no claim for libel. There could be no claim in libel by Ms Trimingham, because she does not dispute that what was published about her was substantially true. The main point of Ms Trimingham’s complaint is the repeated references to her sexuality and appearance.”

White contended that the newspaper had infringed Trimingham’s right to privacy under the Copyright Designs and Patent Act, in respect of two photographs, and was in breach of Human Rights Act because if failed to respect her right for private life. Her third claim, which was added by amendment in October 2011, came under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

“Ms Trimingham was not the purely private figure she claims to be. Her reasonable expectation of privacy has become limited,” the judge stated.

However, Tugendhat J warned that the decision did not give the defendant licence to repeat the stories about which Trimingham complained. 

“The effect of this judgment is that the defendant has not committed the tort of harassment so far, and is not threatening to commit it now. The judgment says nothing about the future,” the judgment stated.

The line-up:

For the claimant, Trimingham: Matrix Chambers’ Matthew Ryder QC to lead 5RB’s William Bennett instructed by Mishcon de Reya partner Charlotte Harris

For the defendant, Associated Newspapers: Matrix Chambers’ Antony White QC to lead 5RB’s Alexandra Marzec instructed by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain partner Jaron Lewis