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 October 22, 2009  Court, Non-U.S.

Although we share certain legal roots, the UK courts have not always taken the same position on privacy and defamation cases as U.S. courts. Out-Law.com reports a ruling on a case in the UK where the court questions whether the laws of privacy or laws of defamation apply as it grants an injunction against a defendant who was neither present nor represented in the hearing on the matter:

The High Court has upheld a famous person’s rights under the law of confidence over someone else’s right to reveal his activity with a prostitute under defamation law. The Court has granted an interim injunction which will keep the man’s identity a secret.

The man is described as someone “with some public reputation” in the Court’s ruling, which says that “about ten years ago, he had two or three sexual encounters for payment. These took place at his home”.

When the woman approached him two years later and allegedly threatened to reveal details of their encounters unless she was paid, they made a confidential arrangement. It said: “this arrangement is made in confidence and neither this letter nor its terms should be disclosed by you to anybody else”.

In August a person got in touch with the man’s agent threatening to publish details of the encounters. The man then sought an order to stop the material being published. The Court has granted an interim order to that effect.

The man’s lawyers argued in Court that the details of the encounters were private, and that the agreement was protected by the law of confidence. It would be a breach of that law for the information to be published, he argued.

Mr Justice Tugendhat in his ruling said that though the case was brought on the laws of privacy and confidentiality, it could involve the laws of defamation.

“Although it is not known what it is that the defendant is threatening to publish, the likelihood is that, whatever it is, it may well arguably be defamatory. And, on the basis of the information provided to me by the applicant, it may also be true,” he said.

“I am concerned as to whether the claim in this case is properly to be regarded as a claim to protect the applicant’s privacy, or whether it is a claim brought to protect his reputation,” said the judge. “The established law in relation to claims in defamation is that no interlocutory injunction will be granted where the defendant is proposing to publish material that may be defamatory but which the defendant is alleging to be true.”

Read more on Out-Law.com.

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