Don't believe everything you read - the privacy injunction is alive and well

Legal action taken by a married celebrity to prevent The Sun on Sunday publishing allegations that he had a threesome heralds the return of the court injunction.

Privacy injunctions never went away, they just went off the radar, writes Michael Patrick
Privacy injunctions never went away, they just went off the radar, writes Michael Patrick
Five years ago high profile individuals ranging from Ryan Giggs to Fred Goodwin were revealed to have sought injunctions from the courts restricting what could be reported about their private lives and their various extra-marital indiscretions. 

In light of the publicity those cases attracted, both on Fleet Street and especially on social media, many in the PR and legal world were quick to declare such court orders as dead and buried.

While it is true that applications for privacy injunctions dipped dramatically following the publicity those cases attracted, the fact is such injunctions never really went away. 

A judgement handed down last week by the Court of Appeal concerning a man known simply as "PJS" has highlighted that court action can still be a useful tool in the armoury of high profile individuals seeking to protect their privacy and, in turn, their reputation.

The case centred on allegations made about PJS, described as a "well-known person" in the entertainment industry, who is allegedly in an "open marriage" with his wife YMA, another well-known person in the entertainment world. 

According to the court's ruling, PJS met a woman, AB, and together they had "occasional sexual encounters" from 2009, despite AB already being in a relationship with another man, CD. 

The relationship finally came to an end in 2011 after PJS had what the court described as "a three-way sexual encounter" with AB and CD.

While applications for privacy injunctions have been on the increase recently, this is the first case to reach the Court of Appeal since 2011. 

In granting the injunction, the court held that PJS' right to a "private and family life" outweighed The Sun on Sunday's own right to freedom of expression in publishing an article about his adultery. 

The court made clear that while PJS was a public figure, such kiss and tell stories do not serve the public interest, confirming that just because a story may be interesting to the public that does not mean it outweighs an individual's right to privacy.
In this case, the court was quick to emphasise that the proposed story about PJS's sex life would be "devastating" for the claimant and his family, especially his young children.

The ruling demonstrates that the courts continue to be sympathetic to high profile individuals – even ones with colourful private lives such as PJS – who are seeking to prevent newspapers publishing details about what happens behind closed doors. 

Going forward the issue for PJS and his advisers, legal and PR, will be limiting the inevitable speculation about his identity on social media and the internet. 

However, for now at least his private life remains exactly that and he will be glad that the privacy injunction managed to survive the predictions of many back in 2011.

Michael Patrick is a senior associate at Farrer & Co

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