Essay Color Key

Free Essays
Unrated Essays
Better Essays
Stronger Essays
Powerful Essays
Term Papers
Research Papers

A Tort of Invasion of Privacy

Rate This Paper:

Length: 4744 words (13.6 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Red (FREE)      
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A Tort of Invasion of Privacy

It has often been said that the English law does not recognise a right
to privacy 'as such'.[1] It has been widely agreed that privacy rights
might find incidental protection by causes of action designed to
protect other interests, but there is no distinct cause of action for
'invasion of privacy'.[2] This point was graphically illustrated in
the case of Kaye v Robertson.[3] This case involved a well known actor
who had undergone extensive surgery and was in hospital when he was
photographed and allegedly interviewed by a tabloid newspaper. The
journalist and the photographer for the newspaper ignored notices
asking visitors to ask permission from a member of staff before
visiting patients. The claimant relied on causes of action in libel,
trespass to the person, passing-off and malicious falsehood. It was
accepted by the claimant's lawyers that his rights could not be
protected by an action for breach of privacy. This case is frequently
cited in support of the proposition that the English law does not
recognise a tort of privacy;[4] however it has also been pointed out[5]
that the action was not brought in confidence, and no cases derived
from the law of confidence were cited in court.[6] Although the Court
of appeal refused his application, it noted that the case:
"…highlighted, yet again, the failure of both the common law and of
statute to protect in an effective way the personal privacy of
individual citizens."[7]

The protection of privacy was also referred to in the case of R v Khan[8].
This case involved the admissibility of evidence secured through the
use of concealed police surveillance equipment in relation to the
defendant's suspected heroin importation, the House of Lords noted
that the Article 8 (ECHR) right to privacy would only be of relevance
in order to assist the construction of the law in a case of ambiguity
or doubt. The House of Lords did not lament this lacuna in the law.
The House of Lords concluded that the evidence could not be rendered
inadmissible even though it could be said to have contravened Article
8. Lord Nolan said: "…it would be a strange reflection on our law if a
man who has admitted his participation in the illegal importation of
large quantity of heroin should have his conviction set aside on the
grounds that his privacy has been invaded."[9] When Lord Nolan heard
the case he, along with Lord Taylor, highlighted the fact that the
Convention had not been incorporated into English Statutory law. It
remains open to speculation whether a decision similar to R v Khan
would be adopted today, or whether the same result would be achieved
in a more roundabout way on the basis of national interest.

On the other hand, the common law continues to evolve to meet new
social needs and the Court of Appeal has recently referred with
apparent approval to the "development of a new civil right of
privacy".[10] However, in a later case a differently constituted court
refused to deal with the point. It was stated that whether or not
there is "a separate cause of action based upon a new tort involving
the infringement of privacy" was a "vexed question" which was not
necessary for first instance judges to tackle when considering
applications for injunctions.[11] This issue has been avoided in a
great number of high profile cases which have been described in the
media as being about 'privacy'.[12] It has been suggested that now may
be time to directly confront this issue. It has been argued that the
potential new tort of privacy will assist both claimant and defendants
and their advisors in assessing where they stand when "privacy" issues

There have been occasions where the court has recognised privacy over
and above other legal provisions, but this recognition has not been
consistent. In the case of Haig v Aitken[13] the trustee in bankruptcy
of Jonathan Aitken, ex-Conservative MP and Cabinet member, wished to
'realize' valuable papers belonging to Aitken that were personal to
him in a variety of ways. The papers included letters to heads of
state and to former ministers, and even 'intimate' correspondence.
Under insolvency law, it was recognised by the court that, because Mr
Aitken was a bankrupt, his estate should be transferred to the trustee
in bankruptcy for him to 'realize' it (i.e. to sell it for the benefit
of Mr Aitken's creditiors). However, the court upheld Mr Aitken's
claim that, given their personal nature, the documents ought not to be
sold because they were protected under Article 8 of the Convention.

Under recent case law there have been three diverse views raised in
regards to the availability and desirability of a tort of invasion of
privacy. Firstly it has been argued that there is no common law tort
of invasion of privacy and the courts are prevented from developing
such law due to the binding authority of the Court of Appeal.[14] Then
again, even before the Human rights Act the courts were slowly
developing a tort of invasion of privacy based on breach of
confidence. The Court of Appeal did not consider a claim based on
breach of confidence in Kaye v Robinson[15] and the point as to
whether there was a right of privacy in English Law was explicitly
left open in a number of cases.[16] Others claim that there is no tort
and no need to develop one because in "the great majority of
situations, if not all situations, where the protection of privacy is
justified … an action for breach of confidence now will … provide the
necessary protection."[17] This view does involve some expansion of
the cause of action for breach of confidence resulting, in part, from
the HRA but reflecting pre-existing case law.[18] It has also been
argued that a new tort is required and is now available or at least
developing, in part at least as a result of the impetus provided by
the Human Rights Act.[19]

In March 2002 it seemed that attempts by lawyers to establish a law of
privacy on the basis of article 8 of the Human Rights Act, the right
to a private life, seemed to have failed due to the competing right to
freedom of expression, protected by article 10. As a result of this
news the newspapers started celebrating 'press freedom' victory. These
celebrations were very premature because after Naomi Campbell's
victory over the Mirror newspaper this territory must be fought over
all over again

A recent case which looked at invasion of privacy was that of a
married footballer (Garry Flitcroft) who said his affair with a lap
dancer was a private matter and obtained an injunction to prevent the
Sunday people reporting it. At the Court of Appeal Lord Woolf, the
Lord Chief Justice, was widely interpreted to indicate that rights to
freedom of expression under article 10 of the Human Rights Act clearly
outweighed rights to privacy under article 8. Lord Woolf said: " the
courts must not ignore the fact that if newspapers do not publish
information which the public are interested in, there will be fewer
newspapers published, which will not be in the public interest"

A person who takes a photograph of another person in a hospital bed,
without his knowledge, is not under an 'obligation of confidence' to
the person whose photograph he has taken. A claim for breach of
confidence can only be held in such cases through the imposition of a
'deemed' obligation of confidence on the photographer. In the words of
Sedley LJ, the law "needs to construct an artificial relationship of
confidentiality between intruder and victim"[20] This was also
recognised by the Court of Appeal in A v B & C[21] which said that: "A
duty of confidence will arise whenever the party subject to the duty
is in a situation where he either knows or ought to know what the
other person can reasonably expect his privacy to be protected". A
"duty of confidence" like this seems to be indistinguishable from a
tortuous duty not to intrude into a person's privacy. In addition,
there have been various cases which are generally accepted as
involving invasion of privacy where the 'private' information in
question is not 'confidential'. Examples of these types of cases
include: a public figure's personal address[22]; photographs of a well
known novelist's child lying on a hotel beach[23]; information that a
woman has left her husband for another woman[24]; and a photograph
taken through a window from a public street with a normal camera.[25]
This information was available to neighbours, to other users of the
beach, to friends and associates or to passers by. However, in each of
these cases the media friendly Press Complaints Commission found there
to be a breach of the 'privacy protection' provision in clause 3 of
the code. An extended cause of action for breach of confidence would
be of no assistance in any of these situations unless 'deeming' were
extended to information which is not normally regarded as
confidential. A person will be liable for obtaining information which
was deemed to be confidential in circumstances in which they were
deemed to owe a duty of confidence.

An action for breach of confidence is not available in a situation
where a person had simply been made the subject matter of surveillance
(by, for example, video surveillance being directed to a private
garden) without 'information' being gathered. In the Wainwright case
the strip searching of the claimants did not involve any infringement
of a right of confidence.[26] However, by persuading a person to
remove their clothes in circumstances in which there is no legal power
to do so involves a clear invasion of that person's "private life" and
it has been suggested that it should receive protection in appropriate
cases from the law of tort.[27] It seems that these difficulties will
be overcome by the recognition of a specific tort of invasion of
privacy. As Sedley LJ put it in Douglas v Hello[28] "What a concept of
privacy does, however, is accord recognition to the fact that the law
has to protect not only those people who trust has been abused but
those who simply find themselves subjected to an unwanted intrusion
into their personal lives. The law no longer needs to construct an
artificial relationship of confidentiality between intruder and
victim: it can recognise privacy itself as a legal principle drawn
from the fundamental value of personal autonomy."[29]

(2) Analysing the elements of the potential tort

There has been little discussion of this issue in the English case
law. The relatively few 'privacy' cases which have gone to trial have
been dealt with on conventional 'breach of confidence' grounds.[30]
The present state of the authorities indicates that there are two
possible routes to defining the elements of a tort of invasion of
privacy. Some suggest that the new tort could be based on an expanded
action for breach of confidence or it could become a new
'self-standing' tort. Firstly, in order to provide appropriate
protection for generally recognised privacy interests, an expanded
'breach of confidence based cause of action'[31] may require some of
the following elements: Firstly, the collection of information (or
material which is deemed to be information), which is, or which is
deemed to be, confidential; Secondly, the breach must be by a person
who is or is deemed to be in a relationship of confidence with the
claimant (such a relationship being deemed to exist if the person
either knows or ought to know that the claimant can reasonably expect
his privacy to be protected); and finally the person used, or is
deemed to have used, the information to the actual or deemed detriment
of the claimant.[32] It seems that the repeated recourse to 'deeming'
is not in line with the modern law and it may be healthier for the
elements of the tort to be defined without reference to legal

The complications involved in defining the limits of an independent
tort of invasion of privacy are notorious. One problem is the range of
interests which are said to be covered by the concept of 'privacy'. In
addition to the 'right to be left alone',[33] privacy rights have been
said to cover matters as diverse as an individual's dignity or moral
integrity,[34] the authorised circulation of portraits,[35] the
control of personal information[36] the establishment and development
of emotional relationships with others,[37] and the freedom from media
intrusion.[38] The wide range of areas in which the right has been
called upon has led to scepticism as whether it is helpful to speak of
a general 'right to privacy' at all.[39] On the other hand, it is very
important to distinguish the right to be free from unwarranted state
interference[40] and the private law tort of invasion of privacy. The
latter clearly has a much narrower range.

(3)The private law tort of invasion of privacy in other jurisdictions

This private law tort of invasion of privacy was first suggested at
the end of the nineteenth century in the United States[41], where it
has been extensively analysed and developed in their case law.[42]
However, it has been restricted to the four areas summarised in the
Restatement of the Law of Torts[43] which states that: "(2) The right
of privacy is evaded by: (a) the unreasonable intrusion upon the
seclusion of another; (b) the appropriation of the other's name or
likeness; (c) unreasonable publicity given to the other's private
life; (d) publicity that unreasonably places the other in a false
light before the public." This includes a number of torts which serve
slightly different purposes.[44] It has been suggested that a new
common law tort of invasion of privacy should cover only the first and
third of these, i.e. intrusion upon seclusion and unreasonable
publicity. The second and fourth are similar to property rights which
may require protection of a different type. The Restatement described
intrusion upon seclusion in the following terms: "One who
intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude of
another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to
the other for invasion of his privacy, if the intrusion would be
highly offensive to a reasonable person." Publicity given to private
life is described as "one who gives publicity to a matter concerning
the private life of another is subject to liability to the other for
invasion of privacy, if the matter publicised is of a kind that: (a)
would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and (b) is not of
legitimate concern to the public."

In comparison, the common law in New Zealand has developed a tort of
invasion of privacy.[45] The courts wanted to synthesise the first and
third parts of the definition in the Restatement. Consequently, it has
been suggested that four conditions must be established to prove
commission of the tort of breach of privacy: "(1) That the facts which
were disclosed were private facts as distinct from public facts; (2)
that the disclosure of the private facts was a public disclosure as
distinct from a private disclosure; (3) that the facts which were
disclosed would be highly offensive and objectionable to a reasonable
person of ordinary sensibilities; (4) that any legitimate public
interest in the disclosure would be insufficient to override the right
to privacy in respect of them." After careful scrutiny I have found
that this formulation of the tort suffers from two shortcomings.
Firstly, it only deals with the "public" disclosure of "private"
facts. It does not cover invasions of privacy by intrusion where no
information is published. Secondly, the fourth element (that of
"public interest") is best regarded as a defence rather than an
essential part of the tort.

(4) Proposals for a new tort

In the United Kingdom there have been a number of proposals as to the
'elements' of a new tort from official bodies. On 16 March 1993, the
National Heritage Committee of the House of Commons published a report
on "Privacy and Media intrusions". It recommended a Protection of
Privacy Bill which would define a tort of "infringement of privacy" to
cover conduct which included the following:[46] obtaining and/or
publishing harmful or embarrassing personal material or photographs;
obtaining and/or publishing private information or photographs without
the permission of the person concerned; (iii) Publishing inaccurate or
misleading personal information; or violating the peace of another by
intruding upon him or her, or persistently communicating with him or

Secondly, the Calcutt committee on privacy and related matters[47]
suggested that "A right to privacy would include protection from: (a)
physical intrusion; (b) publication of hurtful or embarrassing
personal material (whether true or false); (c) publication of
inaccurate or misleading personal material; and (d) publication of
photographs or recordings of the individual taken without consent."

Finally, in July 1993, the Lord Chancellor issued a consultation paper
proposing a new civil wrong in the following terms: "A natural person
shall have a cause of action in tort, in respect of conduct which
constitutes an infringement of his privacy, causing him substantial
distress, provided that such distress would have also have been
suffered by a person of ordinary sensibilities in the circumstances of
the complainant."[48] On the other hand, the former chairman of the
Press Complaints commission, Lord Wakeham, consistently argued that a
law protecting privacy would be counter-productive, protecting only
the rich, while limiting public interest investigations (see Appendix

(5) Defining the new tort

It seems like the best way of defining the elements of the new tort
would be to use the process highlighted in the American and New
Zealand case law. This would be a method which develops breach of
confidence but breaks free from its constraints and reflects generally
held views as to the limits of the word "private". One feasible way of
doing this is by defining the tort of invasion of privacy on the basis
of three elements. Therefore, in order to establish an invasion of
privacy, there must be: (1) an intrusion; (2) into a person's life;
(3) which is highly offensive to a reasonable person of ordinary
sensibilities.[49] The first element ('intrusion') may take two forms.[50]
Firstly, it could include the observation, recording or surveillance
by the defendant of the claimant. This would include matters such as
photography, films and tape recording but would also include visual or
aural observation. Secondly it could include the publication of
information about the claimant, such as, factual information (whether
true or false), photographs, films or recordings (whether actually or
purportedly recording the claimant).

In considering the first element (intrusion) the only question is
whether or not there has been some 'observation' or 'publication'. The
question as to whether the intrusion is into the "private realm" of a
person's life is considered as part of the second element (i.e. 'into
a person's private life'). When considering the existence of
'intrusion' the availability of material in the public domain should
be irrelevant. This should be dealt with in relation to the third
element (i.e. 'highly offensive to a reasonable person of ordinary
sensibilities'). The third element provides a useful 'threshold' which
privacy claims must meet. The High Court of Australia have recently
described this as being "in many circumstances a useful practical test
of what is private."[51] This test was referred to with approval by
the Court of appeal in A v B & C[52] and by Morland J in Campbell v
MGN Ltd.[53] It has been suggested that this should be an objective
test, for example, what would a reasonable person of ordinary
sensibilities feel if they were placed in the same situation as the
claimant?[54] This third


[1] Wainwright v Home Office (2001) EWCA Civ 2081, para 57, Mummery LJ

[2] Lord Denning in Re X (a minor) (1975) Fam 47, 58. Also illustrated
in Malone v Commissioner of Police (No 2) (1979) Ch 344, 372

[3] (1991) FSR 62.

[4] This is illustrated in, Khorasandjian v Bush (1993) QB 727, 744;
and Wainwright v Home Office (2001) paras 100 to 101 (Buxton LJ).

[5] Douglas v Hello (2001) 1 QB 967, 988 (para 73) Brooke LJ.

[6] Opinions differ as to whether this would have made any difference.
Lord Scott believed that it would ("Confidentiality", in J Beatson and
Y Cripps, Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information, Oxford
University Press, 2000, p.272) while Lord Bingham said that it would
not unless the action for breach of confidence had been substantially
extended (Lord Bingham, "Opinion: Should there be a law to protect
rights of personal privacy?", in The Business of Judging, Oxford
university Press, 2000, pp.148-149).

[7] Tom Crone, Law and the Media, Focal Press, 2002, page 115

[8] (1997) AC 558

[9] See footnote 7

[10] H (A Healthcare Worker) v Associated Newspapers Ltd (2002) EWCA
Civ 195, para 40.

[11] A v B & C (2002) EWCA Civ, para 1 (vi).

[12] For example: A v B & C; Campbell v MGN Ltd (2002) EWHC 499 (QB),
para 5.

[13] (2000) 3 All ER 80

[14] See footnote 1

[15] See footnote 3

[16] Lord Browne Wilkinson (558 & 571) and Lord Nolan (582-583) (in R
V Khan (1997) AC 558

[17] see footnote 11

[18] As the Court of Appeal said in Av B & C (2002): "The court's
approach … has been modified because under section 6 of the 1998 Act,
the court, as a public authority, is required not to act "in a way
which is incompatible with a Convention right". The court is able to
achieve this by absorbing the rights which articles 8 and 10 protect
into the long-established action for breach of confidence. This
involves giving a new strength and breadth to the action so that it
accommodates the requirements of those articles."

[19] For example: Venables v News Group Nespapers Ltd (2001) 2 WLR
1038; Douglas v Hello (2001) 1 QB 967, 988; H (A Healthcare Worker) v
Associated Newspapers Ltd (2002) EWCA Civ 195,

[20] Douglas v Hello (2001) QB 967 at 1001 (para 126).

[21] (2002) EWCA Civ 337, para 11 (x).

[22] PCC Complaint dated 4 June 2000, Renate John v Sunday Mirror;
this is also illustrated in Mills v News Group Newspapers (2001) EMLR
957 in which Lawrence Collins J said that it "may be somewhat
artificial to classify the address of a person as confidential
information." (para 21).

[23] PCC Complaint dated 17 August 2001, Rowling v OK Magazine.

[24] PCC Complaint Dated 11 June 1999, Charters v Sun.

[25] PCC Complaint Dated 6 August 1998, McQuarrie v Scotland on

[26] See footnote 1, para 87.

[27] It is important to note that in Wainwright the Court of Appeal
accepted that if the incident had taken place after 2 October 2000 the
claimants would have had a freestanding HRA claim against the Home
Office for breach of Article 8. On the other hand, if those requiring
removal of clothes had been private security guards employed by a
private body then there would have been no HRA claim at any date. A
potential tort of invasion of privacy would avoid such an anomaly.

[28] See footnote 3, at 1001 (para 126)

[29] It is important to note that in April 2003 Michael Douglas and
Catherine Zeta-Jones failed in their privacy claim, but they were
successful in their action for breach of confidence (with an award of
nominal damages under the Data Protection Act). The fundamentals of
this case will be discussed further.

[30] This is illustrated in the case of Campbell v MGN Ltd (2002) EWHC
499 (QB). In this case the claimant (Naomi Campbell) decided not to
pursue her claim for breach of privacy.

[31] Hugh Tomlinson QC, Privacy and the Media - 'The Developing Law',
2002, page 11

[32] Ibid

[33] Warren and Brandeis 'The Right to Privacy' (1890) 4 Harvard L Rev
193, p.13

[34] D Feldman, 'Secrecy, Dignity, or Autonomy? Views of Privacy as a
Social Value' (1994) 47 Current Legal Problems, p.41.

[35] See footnote 33, (Warren and Brandeis, p.195)

[36] A Westin, Privacy and Freedom, (Bodley Head, 1967), p. 116. R
Wacks, The Protection of Privacy, (Sweet & Maxwell, 1980), p.84.

[37] X v Iceland (1976) 5 DR 86

[38] For example, Kaye v Robertson (1991) FSR 62.

[39] R Wacks, 'The Poverty of Privacy' (1980) 96 LQR 73, p.7

[40] What might be called "the human right to privacy"

[41] Warren and Brandeis 'The Right to Privacy' (1890) 4 Harvard L Rev
193, p.19

[42] Restatement of the Law of Torts, 2nd Edition, para 625A ff.

[43] Ibid

[44] Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats (2001) HCA
63, paras 120-128 (Gummow and hayne JJ, with whom Gaudron J agreed).

[45] Tucker v News Media Ownership Ltd (1986) 2 NZLR 716; Bradley v
Wingnut Films Ltd (1993) 1 NZLR 415; P v D (2000) 2 NZLR 591; and L v
G (2002) DC Reg 234.

[46] HC 294-1, paras 48-9; In addition, the committee also recommended
that the Bill should include provisions specifying criminal offences
resulting from the unauthorised use of invasive technology and
harassment. The Committee's recommendations were not implemented.

[47] Report of the Committee on Privacy and Related Matters (1990) Cm
1102 (The Calcutt report), para 3.8.

[48] Consultation Paper, July 1993

[49] Hugh Tomlinson QC, Privacy and the Media - 'The Developing Law',
2002, page 15

[50] Corresponding to the first and third aspects of the tort
identified in the Restatement (USA).

[51] Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats (2001) HCA
63, para 42 (Gleeson CJ).

[52] (2002) EWCA Civ, para 11 (vii)

[53] (2002) EWHC 499 (QB), at para 40 (1)

[54] P v D (2000) 2 NZLR 591, at 681 element would allow the nature of
the intrusion to be taken into account: a reasonable person of
ordinary sensibilities may well regard a 'surreptitious' intrusion by
means of , for example, a photograph taken with a telephoto lens, to
be more offensive than a photograph taken with an ordinary camera.[54]
The third element would probably exclude from the tort intrusions that
are regarded as of a 'borderline' nature, such as: a single
"observation" of a person sitting in a private setting; the taking of
a single non-published photograph; the publication of a trivial item
of personal information; the publication of information which is
already well known; and the publication of information about a
relationship to friends and relatives. These "intrusions" would not be
actionable because none of them would be "highly offensive to a
reasonable person". The third element would also provide a 'filter'
for claims and valuable protection for the media from harassment by
unmerited claims by over-sensitive public figures.

(6) Breach of confidence

English law does provide some protection against abuse and
unauthorised use of confidential information. It is possible for a
breach of confidence to give rise to a claim for an invasion of
privacy, for example, the taking of unauthorized photographs or films
of a person or his home. This is based on a 'confidential
relationship' as stated by the court in the Spycatcher case[54]. In
this case it was held that a breach of an obligation not to take
photographs may allow a claimant to bring action for breach of
confidence. In Shelley Films v Rex Features,[54] the defendant was
prevented from using photographs taken on a film-set that had signs
prohibiting photography. Furthermore, in Creation Records v News Group
Newspapers Limited,[54] a photographer from The Sun newspaper
published photographs taken during a photo shoot for the cover of a
new record by the rock group Oasis. Even though the photographer was
lawfully at the scene, the court still found that the security
measures at the shot made it arguable it was intended to be
confidential. Therefore an injunction was granted preventing the
publication of the photographs. In contrast, in other areas it has
been a difficult task for the courts to balance the total protection
of privacy with the public interest. In the recent past, authors of
books[54] containing confidential government material have faced
litigation by the government in order to prevent publication of that
material and there was also the 'possibility of prosecution under the
Official Secrets Act 1989'.[54]

In its original decision in the Spycatcher case,[54] the House of
Lords upheld an injunction[54] against several newspapers who wanted
to publish serializations of Spycatcher immediately after its
publication in the United States. In its subsequent decision[54] the
House of Lords decided not to grant a permanent injunction. It seems
very unlikely that the House of Lords preferred to safeguard free
speech over maintaining confidentiality, 'since this decision was
mainly based on the fact that the confidentiality had already been
broken and no such duty was owed by the third parties'.[54] Thus, the
House of Lords adopted a more practical standpoint and found that a
permanent injunction in the UK was depicted as being futile in view of
the fact that the material had already been published. Nevertheless
the court stated that: "…the right to personal privacy is clearly one
which the law should in this field seek to protect". They also noted
that an injunction would have been granted in relation to the
publication if it had first been made in the UK: "…there is no room
for discrimination between secrets of greater or lesser importance,
nor any room for close examination of the precise manner in which
revelation of any particular matter may prejudice the national

In the case of A-G v Punch Ltd (2001), the court looked at
confidentiality in relation to David Shayler.[54] The Court of Appeal
decided to grant the appeal of Punch and its editor, James Steen,
against their convictions for contempt of court since, amongst other
things, it could not be shown that the disclosure by them of
information supplied by Shayler defeated, in whole or in part, the
function of the court in granting the injunction. In contrast, during
2001 Dame Stella Rimington, who had been Director General for MI5 for
four years, published her memoirs Open Secret, which contained
confidential government material. Although the Home Office stated that
the government 'regretted' Rimington's decision to publish the book,
it still said that for the most part it would not resist its
publication. It seems that this was because the memoirs were edited to
appease both MI5 and the Government itself.[54]

The problem faced by the court of balancing the total protection of
privacy with other public interests is expected to continue into the
future following the incorporation of the conflicting rights to
privacy in Article 8 and freedom of expression under Article 10. This
could have been the case in September 2000 where the celebrity couple,
David and Victoria Beckham, sued Andrew Morton in relation to his
'unauthorised biography'. This biography revealed intimate details
about their personal and professional lives. Furthermore, Andrew
Morton had gathered the information from a former bodyguard who had
already signed a confidentiality clause on commencing employment with
the Beckhams. However, this matter was settled out of court on the
basis that 200 offending words were deleted from the manuscript. On
the other hand, if the case did proceed to trial, then the court would
have had to weigh Andrew Morton's right to express himself under
Article 10 with the Beckham's right to privacy under Article 8.

(7) Which types of activities or information constitute "Private

To determine the limits of a tort of invasion of privacy it is
essential to define the limits of the "private life" which the law
aims to protect. There has never been an attempt to create a thorough
formal definition. In this sphere, as in many others, the common law
proceeds with a "molecular" motion. Thus, new categories are being
added by analogy and established ones on a case to case basis.
However, it is still important to assist advisers and courts in
assessing new and borderline cases. Useful assistance for creating a
definition can be obtained through a number of sources. Firstly, there
is Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states
that: "(1) Everyone has the right to respect for his private and
family life, his home and his correspondence". By taking into
consideration the meanings of these words the courts are, evidently,
dealing with the 'human rights to privacy' rather than private law
rights. Nonetheless, the convention case law does provide some
guidance as to the meaning of 'home' and 'private life'. A few of the
areas it covers are: the business premises of a professional
person;[54] sexual activity,[54] even where a number of people are
present and the activity is video taped;[54] and a photograph taken
during an interview at an army centre[54] (but not a photograph taken
during a political demonstration[54]).

Furthermore, there are 'privacy codes' which apply to the press and to
broadcasters.[54] Clause 3 of the PCC Code states that: "(i) Everyone
is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home,
health and correspondence. A publication will be expected to justify
intrusions into any individual's private without consent. (ii) The use
of long lens photography to take pictures of people in private places
without their consent is unacceptable. Note - private places are
public or private property where there is reasonable expectation of
privacy." The privacy codes of the ITC[54] and BSC[54] make specific
provisions in relation to matters such as: filming in public and
semi-public places; filming police operations; filming in
circumstances of distress; revisiting past events; secret filming and
the use of children in programmes. All these are areas which could
potentially be the subject of protection by a tort of invasion of


The adjudication of regulators, whether published or broadcast, has
limited effect. Since regulators seek to avoid repeating the offending
material, the adjudication tends to be enigmatic. In addition, some
adjudications are anonymous, and this means that they often have
limited value in providing either vindication for the complainant or
future guidance for the media. Some BSC and ITC decisions must be
broadcast, and all adverse PCC decisions must be published. Thus,
broadcasters tend to take more steps towards avoiding invasions of
privacy than the printed press (i.e. newspapers and most magazines).
In practice, the lack of any other remedies, such as fines or awards
of compensation, means that invasion of privacy will occur in all
forms of the media. In general there is no restraint or monitoring. On
the other hand, the public's 'right to know' should not be blocked, as
Lord Woolf said: "the courts must not ignore the fact that if
newspapers do not publish information which the public are interested
in, there will be fewer newspapers published, which will not be in the
public interest".[54]

On the whole, privacy is protected to a certain extent by regulators,
their powers are limited and the ability to challenge their decisions,
up to now, has also been very limited. It remains to be seen whether
applications under the Human Rights Act or the regulation under OFCOM
will improve this position. The major flaw in the regulatory system,
as regards to the protection of privacy, is that the regulators have
no power to stop broadcast or publication. The only remedy is
adjudication, by which time the information has already been published
and the damage done. Therefore there is clearly a lot of room for

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"A Tort of Invasion of Privacy." 25 Apr 2014

Related Searches

Important Note: If you'd like to save a copy of the paper on your computer, you can COPY and PASTE it into your word processor. Please, follow these steps to do that in Windows:

1. Select the text of the paper with the mouse and press Ctrl+C.
2. Open your word processor and press Ctrl+V.

Company's Liability (the "Web Site") is produced by the "Company". The contents of this Web Site, such as text, graphics, images, audio, video and all other material ("Material"), are protected by copyright under both United States and foreign laws. The Company makes no representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the Material or about the results to be obtained from using the Material. You expressly agree that any use of the Material is entirely at your own risk. Most of the Material on the Web Site is provided and maintained by third parties. This third party Material may not be screened by the Company prior to its inclusion on the Web Site. You expressly agree that the Company is not liable or responsible for any defamatory, offensive, or illegal conduct of other subscribers or third parties.

The Materials are provided on an as-is basis without warranty express or implied. The Company and its suppliers and affiliates disclaim all warranties, including the warranty of non-infringement of proprietary or third party rights, and the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. The Company and its suppliers make no warranties as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the material, services, text, graphics and links.

For a complete statement of the Terms of Service, please see our website. By obtaining these materials you agree to abide by the terms herein, by our Terms of Service as posted on the website and any and all alterations, revisions and amendments thereto.

Return to

Copyright © 2000-2013 All rights reserved. Terms of Service