Appeal court upholds News of the World privacy gag

A married man working in the entertainment industry who had admitted an affair with a colleague is entitled to an order gagging the media from naming him, the Court of Appeal held today.

The father-of-two successfully appealed against an earlier decision in which Mr Justice Collins had rejected his bid for an injunction to restrain the News of the World from publishing “private information”.

Three judges in the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal challenge by the man, who can be referred to only as ETK.

Lord Justice Ward, Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Moore-Bick announced their reasons today for granting an injunction to ETK, whose application and appeal was supported by his wife and the woman with whom had had an affair, who is also married and works in the entertainment industry.

Giving the background to the case Lord Justice Ward said that in about November 2009 ETK began a “sexual relationship with another woman”, who is referred to as X.

“The source of the News of the World’s information suggests that this relationship became obvious to those with whom the appellant and X were working,” the judge said.

“Towards the end of April 2010 the appellant’s wife confronted him with her belief, formed either intuitively, or from information conveyed to her, that he was having an affair.

“He admitted it. This was deeply distressing for the wife but she and her husband determined, not least for the sake of their two teenage children, to rebuild her trust and their marriage.

“To that end the appellant accepted that he would end his sexual relationship with X and he so informed her.”

The judge added: “Continuing their working relationship was obviously awkward and in discussion with his employers, the appellant told them that he would prefer in an ideal world not to have to see her at all and that one or other should leave but both accepted that their working commitments did not then make that possible.

“They agreed to conduct themselves with due decorum and to continue to perform their duties in a professional way as in fact they did.

“In December 2010 their employers informed X that her services would no longer be required, explaining publicly that it was a convenient moment to make this change.”

She was “understandably, upset and angry”. ETK only became aware of her departure while on holiday with his family over Christmas.

The judge said news of the events leaked to the News of the World, and that the newspaper’s inquiries alerted ETK “to its wish to publish the fact of the affair and that the affair was the real cause of X leaving her employment”.

Ruling in ETK’s favour, Lord Justice Ward said: “In my judgment the benefits to be achieved by publication in the interests of free speech are wholly outweighed by the harm that would be done through the interference with the rights to privacy of all those affected, especially where the rights of the children are in play.”

He said: “The decisive factor is the contribution the published information will make to a debate of general interest.”

Publication “may satisfy public prurience but that is not a sufficient justification for interfering with the private rights of those involved”.

The decision comes after a series of high-profile gagging orders in recent weeks, including a premiership football who had an affair with Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas, and a well-know British actor.

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