Intrusion of Privacy Actions on the Increase as Libel Falls

18 Jul 2016

Legal actions over intrusions into privacy are nowat record levels, with high-profile public figures playing a role.

Well known personalities are attempting to restrict publicity about their private lives with a recent survey showing privacy claims have more than doubled in the last five years, up from 28 in 2010 to 58 in 2015 – with about 20 per cent of those cases involving celebrities or high profile politicians. Moving alongside this increase is the decrease in defamation actions, with Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics showing in 2015 defamation cases taken to the high court fell by 40 per cent compared to 2014. 

Recent noteworthy cases have involved media organisations paying damages for breaches of privacy to the likes of actor Sadie Frost and former footballer Paul Gascoigne. The media is frustrated by the increase and many have said it is too easy for public figures to use this tool to control what is being published about their lives.

Also, more than a third of privacy claims involve information passed to a company, to government or a public body. Here at Pindoria Solicitors, we believe that with the sophistication of communication channels, the bounds of privacy law have to change.

It is worth pointing out that since the start of 2014, claimants now have to demonstrate that a publication has caused or is likely to cause their reputations serious harm, whilst companies trading for profit also face the task of showing that a publication’s actions has caused them serious financial loss.

The rule against prior restraint in defamation cases means that courts are unwilling to issue injunctions to block publication. However, it is more straightforward to obtain injunctions about information, which is claimed to be private. For these reasons, many experts now believe that a privacy claim is far more effective claim than libel.

However, this is an area of law that is likely to continually come under scrutiny. Information can now be found in numerous places including social media and because of this it will continually cause headaches for our law makers.

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