In a judgment handed down on 16 April 2014, Mr Justice Dingemans (pic) awarded Paul Weller’s three children a total of £10,000 damages for misuse of private information ( EWHC 1163 (QB)).
The case arose out of seven paparazzi photos which were published by Mail Online in October 2012 under the headline “A family day out: Paul Weller takes wife Hannah and his twin sons out for a spot of shopping in the hot LA sun“.
Paul Weller sued the publisher of Mail Online, Associated Newspapers Limited, on behalf of his children for misuse of private information. In a reserved judgment after a 4 day trial in March 2014, Mr Justice Dingemans concluded
“the balance comes down in favour of finding that the article 8 rights override the article 10 rights engaged. These were photographs showing the expressions on faces of children, on a family afternoon out with their father. Publishing photographs of the children’s faces, and the range of emotions that were displayed, and identifying them by surname, was an important engagement of their article 8 rights, even though such a publication would have been lawful in California. There was no relevant debate of public interest to which the publication of the photographs contributed. The balance of the general interest of having a vigorous and flourishing newspaper industry does not outweigh the interests of the children in this case”. 
In a press release issued after the handing down of the judgment Associated Newspapers said that it planned to appeal:
“The photographs showed nothing more than Paul Weller and three of his children out and about in public places,” said a spokesman.
There was no claim and no finding that we had followed, harassed or targeted Mr Weller or his children and no request had ever been made to pixellate the children’s faces.
Our publication of the images was entirely in line with the law in California where they were taken by a freelance photographer.
The suggestion that children have an expectation of privacy in relation to publication by the media of images of their faces when one child (now nearly 18) has modelled for Teen Vogue, images of the babies’ naked bottoms have been tweeted by their mother, and their father has discussed the children in promotional interviews is a worrying development in our law, as it has conferred unfettered image rights on all the children.
This judgment has wide-ranging and serious consequences not only for local, national and international digital journalism but for anyone posting pictures of children on social networks. We intend to appeal.”
Mr and Mrs Weller said in a statement after the case that it was an “important step” in protecting the rights of children.
“We are absolutely delighted with the positive outcome of our privacy case against ANL, as we are with the fact that in a detailed and very carefully reasoned judgment, the court has upheld our complaint that unpixellated photographs taken of our children whilst out enjoying some quality time with their family should not be published without consent.
That is why we brought this action on their behalf,
The only reason for publishing the photographs was because they are the children of someone well-known.
That is no proper justification at all, whether they were taken in England or in California, nor is the newspaper’s argument that their commercial business model would somehow be affected if they were not allowed to do so.
This is an important step in the protection of children’s rights, and this decision should be welcomed by those who value them, regardless of whether they are, so-called, ‘famous’ or not.
Unfortunately, the Mail Online’s press release demonstrates that they are no more a respecter of such rights (or the people who pursue them) than they are of the court’s judgment.
It is our opinion that this protection should be automatically offered by law and should not have to be sought by families in a similar predicament. This was a distressing situation for our family and we are happy that this case has concluded and that justice has been done.”
There were a number of newspaper reports of the case:
- A short report on Mail Online “Damages win for Paul Weller“.
- A report by Paul Gallagher in the Independent, “Paul Weller wins damages from the MailOnline on behalf of his children for ‘plastering’ site with images of them“.
- A piece on the Sky News website “Paul Weller wins Privacy Damages over photos“.
- A correction by Full Fact, “Paul Weller didn’t win damages from the Mail” (pointing out that the damages were awarded to the children, not the father).
- A piece in the Guardian (Press Association copy), “Paul Weller children win privacy damages over photos on Mail Online“
We will be publishing a full case comment shortly.