Third time lucky - Supreme Court rules in favour of the threesome injunction

After much anticipation, the Supreme Court has ruled that the injunction in the 'PJS' threesome case should prevail until trial, overturning the decision of the Court of Appeal last month to discharge the injunction.

Was yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on PJS a pyrrhic victory? asks Michael Patrick
Was yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on PJS a pyrrhic victory? asks Michael Patrick
The celebrity, known only as PJS, secured an injunction against The Sun on Sunday in January preventing the newspaper publishing details about his extracurricular affairs. 

Despite the existence of the injunction, the story including PJS's identity was published in the US press a month later and was soon published in Canada, Scotland, and all over the internet. The death of the celebrity injunction seemed inevitable.

The Supreme Court's ruling however shows that the courts will seek to protect inherently private information from being published by the media, even where it can be found elsewhere. 

The court held that the publication of the story by the English media in hard copy would likely "add significantly to the overall intrusiveness and distress involved" and remarked that publishing information on platforms such as Twitter would always be less intrusive than publishing it in "eye-catching headlines" on the front page of a national newspaper.

The court has reaffirmed that there is no public interest in a kiss-and-tell story just because a person involved is famous. 

There is a material difference between what is in the "public interest" and "what the public finds interesting". 

PJS and his children's right to privacy far outweighs the newspaper's right to freedom of expression, and publishing the story in England would cause them significant distress.

Despite his success in court, the result is in no way a total victory for PJS.

The battle of the threesome injunction is one of the biggest legal stories to hit the press this year and PJS is arguably of more interest to the public now than they would have been if the injunction was never obtained.

On the other hand, they have succeeded in keeping their name off the front pages, despite the best efforts of the tabloid press.

This was no mean feat.

The media have made it clear that injunctions won't be accepted lightly. However, the Supreme Court has sent a clear message that the English legal system won’t be bullied by the media. 

While there are many who know PJS’s identity as a result of what has been published on the internet and in the US, there are many who don’t.

Those who predicted this case would be the end of the celebrity injunction will need to think again.

However, despite the end result, it will be a brave celebrity who seeks privacy injunctions in the future.
 
While legal action is a useful tool in the correct circumstances, for those with an international profile an injunction granted by the English courts will never eliminate the risk of the story being published elsewhere.

Michael Patrick is a senior associate at Farrer & Co

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