For many people there is almost nothing more painful than having their private affairs aired on the internet or in publicly available print. As a High Court decision showed, however, specialist lawyers know exactly how to deal with such intrusions.
The case concerned a woman who had a relationship with a man who she claimed had subjected her to a sexual offence. She complained to the police, but the man was not charged with any offence. His employer, however, instituted disciplinary proceedings which had adverse consequences for him.
A self-published book was subsequently offered for sale which appeared to describe the relationship and its aftermath from the man’s perspective. The woman asserted that he had written the book and published it under a pseudonym. Deeply concerned that the book would come to the attention of her family or friends, she launched proceedings against him.
Ruling on the matter, the Court found that she had established a strong case that the man was the book’s author, and that its publication breached her fundamental human right to respect for her privacy and amounted to a misuse of her confidential information. Although she was not named in the book, she was likely to be identifiable by a large number of people as the woman referred to. She also had a strong argument that the book tended to identify her as a complainant of a sexual offence, in violation of her statutory right to lifelong anonymity in that regard.
She was more likely than not to succeed in establishing that the book’s invasion of her privacy was serious, extensive, and disproportionate to its author’s freedom of expression rights. It contained much salacious detail of a very private nature and appeared to do no more than restate the author’s version of events. In any event, its contention that the author had suffered as a result of corruption and a miscarriage of justice did not appear at all persuasive.
Noting that the author had expressed strong negative feelings against the woman referred to, and a wish to do her harm, the Court issued an interim injunction banning any further publication of the book. The order would remain in force pending a full trial of the woman’s claim or further order.
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