Press freedom trumps privacy rights

Posted: 6th September 2012

In balancing privacy and freedom of expression rights, a High Court judge has refused to restrain press publication of a story relating to an alleged ‘sexual encounter’ between a well-known football manager and a woman.

Mr Justice Lindblom accepted that a sexual relationship, no part of which was conducted in public, was a paradigm example of a private matter. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights was engaged and, in principle, Steve McClaren, former manager of the England international football team, had ‘a reasonable expectation of privacy’.

However, refusing to grant an injunction preventing publication of the story in a national newspaper, the judge ruled that, on the particular facts of the case, Mr McClaren’s right to privacy was outweighed by the newspaper’s right to freedom of expression enshrined in article 10 of the convention.

FootballThe judge said that Mr McClaren was ‘undoubtedly a public figure’ who had previously disclosed an earlier extra-marital relationship in a national newspaper, saying that he was happily married and that his marriage would survive.

Ruling that the newspaper ‘plainly had a legitimate interest in publishing its story’, the judge said that it was able to contend that Mr McClaren ‘belongs to the category of those from whom the public could reasonably expect a higher standard of conduct’.

The newspaper’s lawyers had argued that, by publishing the story, it ‘wanted to make the legitimate point that high standards are absent in football’ as a juxtaposition to the exemplary behaviour of athletes during the Olympic Games.