Posted: 16th April 2014
The High Court has awarded £10,000 in damages to the three children of pop star Paul Weller after un-pixellated photographs of them on a day out with their father were published on the world’s most visited news website.
Mr Weller, his 16-year-old daughter, Dylan, and his twin sons, John Paul and Bowie, aged 10 months, were snapped by a photographer whilst on a shopping trip in Santa Monica, California, in October 2012. Photographs of the children appeared on the Mail Online website and attracted 34,000 hits before they were taken down.
In upholding the children’s claims, which their father had pursued as their litigation friend, the Court found that the publication of the photographs amounted to misuse of private information and a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). Dylan was awarded £5,000 damages and the twins £2,500 each.
Although the photographs were taken in a public place, the Court found that the children had an ‘expectation of privacy’ whilst enjoying a family day out with their father. The publication of the photographs had made no contribution to a debate of public interest and had caused Dylan, in particular, deep embarrassment.
In those circumstances, the Court ruled that the website’s right to freedom of expression, under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, was outweighed by the children’s right to respect for their privacy under Article 8. The finding of infringement of the DPA followed on from that ruling.
Fixing the damages awards at relatively modest sums, and declining to award aggravated damages, the Court noted that the purpose of the litigation was primarily to prevent further publication of photographs of the children in the future. Associated Newspapers Limited, publishers of the Mail Online, gave undertakings that the relevant photographs would not be published again.