Case Law, Ireland: Murray v News Group: Convicted rapist refused privacy injunction

24 06 2010

On 18 June 2010 Ms Justice Mary Irvine gave judgment in the Irish High Court in the case of Murray v. Newsgroup Newspapers refusing Michael Murray, a serial rapist who had been released from prison, an injunction preventing a number of newspapers from publishing his address and picture.

The proceedings arose out of publicity in the Evening Herald , the Daily Star , the Star on Sunday , the News of the World and the Sun.  Mr Murray, who was released from prison last year after serving 13 years for raping four women, claimed that he could not live or work anywhere because, as soon as he moved, the press revealed his address and printed pictures of him.

In refusing the injunction, Ms Justice Mary Irvine said Mr Murray had not established that his rights outweighed those of the newspapers’ rights to freedom of expression, and the right of the public to discuss the issue of the release of sex offenders.

Mr Murray relied on the constitutional right to privacy analysed in the case of Herrity v Associated Newspapers ([2009] 1 IR 316) ([28]-[29]) and on the right to privacy protected by Article 8, in particularly on the analysis in Von Hannover v Germany ((2005) 40 EHRR 1)([30] – [35]).  In addition, he replied on the Northern Ireland privacy case of Callaghan v Independent News & Media ([2008] NIQB 15) in which an injunction was granted to restrain publication of the claimant who was a convicted murderer.

Although there is no equivalent to section 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998 in Ireland, the judge nevertheless accepted that before an injunction could be granted a convincing case had to be made on, on proper evidence ([68]).

The Judge held that, although the plaintiff’s privacy rights were engaged, she was

“not satisfied that the plaintiff has adduced sufficient evidence at the interlocutory application to demonstrate that he is likely to succeed at the trial of the action in restricting the further publication of photographs identifying him and/or publication of details of his address” [69]

She held that there was a public interest in members of the public being able to identify persons convicted of violent offences and being informed of their location and that the

“pictures published … and the rticles containing details of his known whereabouts contribute significantly to that debate and the public interest” [74]

The judge was particularly influenced by the absence of evidence from the plaintiff that he was unlikely to offend again – for example, of his participation in counselling or of any risk assessment.  [76]  He had failed to produce evidence that the anonymity he sought would facilitate his re-integration into the community such that his chances of re-offending would be reduced [79]  She concluded that

The plaintiff has not demonstrated by the necessary evidence that there is a real risk to his life or that he is likely to suceed in further prohibiting the publication of information concerning him by the defendant newspapers” [88]

Comment

This is a long and careful judgment, showing that the approach of the Courts in Ireland to privacy issues is very similar to that taken in England.  The “constitutional privacy” right adds little to the protection under Article 8.  Like the John Terry decision, the case demonstrates the importance of an application for an injunction of this kind being supported by proper evidence to justify the grant of an injunction.  It demonstrates how high the evidential threshold is for an applicant who wishes to obtain an injunction on the basis of a threatened violation of the right to life.

The case is discussed in a news story in the Irish Times.  The Herald reports that Mr Murray owes legal fees of up to €250,000 as a result of his failed application.


Actions

Information

One response

29 08 2010
Table of Cases « Inforrm's Blog

[…] Judgment […]

Leave a Reply




%d bloggers like this: