The first privacy trial since July 2012 began at the High Court yesterday before Mr Justice Dingemans. The claim is brought by the musician Paul Weller, on behalf of this three children, against Associated Newspapers Limited over photographs of the children which appeared on Mail Online.
The case was opened by Mr Weller’s Counsel, David Sherborne who told that judge that Mr Weller brought the case as the father of daughter Dylan, who was 16 when the pictures appeared and twin boys, John-Paul and Bowie, who were 10 months old.
“It is not his privacy claim. The claim is brought by three children of this father who just happens to be well-known as a musician”
Mail Online published seven unpixelated pictures to illustrate a story about a “quality time” family shopping outing in Santa Monica, California. The pictures were taken by a paparazzo photographer who followed Mr Weller and the children through the streets to a cafe, sometimes using a long lens but sometimes not, without their consent and despite being asked to stop.
Mr Sherborne said
“It is not about damages, It is about preventing visual images of their faces being taken in such circumstances being plastered all over a newspaper website and about preventing a repetition of such intrusion into their private and family life.”
The judge was told that Hannah Weller, the mother of the twins, had not been in the public eye before her marriage and had taken steps to prevent full-face images of her children appearing in the media. He asked what well-known parents of children were meant to do – never take them out in a public street but keep them locked away?
Photos taken in the street, and not in circumstances such as premieres or for promotion, were a “blatant impediment to the natural social progress of children”, he said.
The claimants are seeking an injunction and damages for each child. But Mr Sherborne said
“It is not about damages, it is about preventing visual images of their faces being taken in such circumstances being plastered all over a newspaper website and about preventing a repetition of such intrusion into their private and family life,”
The defendant, Associated Newspapers says the photos of the children did not depict anything private or fall within the scope of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to respect for private and family life.
Its counsel, Antony White QC, said:
“They are entirely innocuous and inoffensive images taken in public places in Los Angeles and contain no private information or details that might embarrass the claimants or intrude upon their private lives.”
Mr White QC said the Wellers had chosen to open up their private family life to public gaze to a significant degree and had not previously complained about photos of their children being published.
The trial is listed for four days. Mr Weller is expected to give evidence in support of his children’s claim..
Privacy trials remain rare in the English Courts. Since the tort of misuse of private information was first recognised by the House of Lords in Campbell v MGN Ltd ( 2 AC 457) there only appear to have been six contested privacy trials: