A suitable case for Editors Anonymous

Piers Morgan thought it was all over as he led the pitch invasion at the end of the Naomi Campbell case. But it’s only just beginning. The press is on notice to brace itself for actions under born-again confidentiality law.

Privacy law by the back door, The Times called it. Barrister Jon Holbrook spelled out the message drowned by a victory fanfare from Morgan that could not have been more triumphant had he won.

Who would have guessed that The Mirror had ended up with a bill for £200,000 costs and £3,500 damages?

Holbrook spotlighted the vital Court of Appeal message in the parallel case of the fornicating footballer. It is that a breach of confidence claim may now succeed where the recipient of information "either knows or ought to know that the giver can reasonably expect his privacy to be protected".

The misleading cases of Campbell v The Mirror and Garry Flitcroft v the Sunday People invite doubt that the press is gifted with seeing itself as others see it.

Neither of these tacky plaintiffs had been the subject of "journalism of conspicuous nobility", as one lofty commentator observed. Nevertheless, the defendant editors fancied themselves going down in history as champions of freedom. Will they?

Indeed they will, if the view prevails that Narcotics Anonymous patient Campbell and "Love rat" Flitcroft are such iconic role models that they must be destroyed lest their examples corrupt a generation.

Indeed they will, if these episodes are seen as about the public right to know rather than the public right not to know unless it pays the paper that has exclusive rights.

Indeed they will, if the public sees Neil Wallis as Mr Valiant-for-Truth. And Piers Morgan as other than Mr Vengeance-is-Mine, flaying Campbell for daring to employ lawyers as expensive as his.

The result, Morgan shrugged off as "a technical point". The £3,500, Morgan dismissed as "derisory".

Are we no longer grateful when judges believe awards against publications should be proportionate to harm done? Do we not want courts to bear in mind the tariff for loss of limbs or eyes?

The most disconcerting news for Morgan is David Yelland’s promise that The Sun will stand shoulder to shoulder with him in defence of freedom.

Well, well. The pair seem perfectly poised to found Editors Anonymous, where Fleet Street’s role models can gather to make those confidential confessions without which there is no hope of coming to terms with their habits. But no cameras, OK?

 

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