Editor warns Lords ruling could lead to 'privacy law'

Dickinson: privacy law warning

Liverpool Echo editor Mark Dickinson has warned that its House of Lords case versus nightclub promoters Cream could lead to a “privacy law in the front door – never mind the back”.

After a two-year legal fight, the Echo must now await a House of Lords decision to find out whether it can publish its allegations about Cream.

After a two-day hearing at the country’s highest court a judgment is expected within the next three months.

If it goes in the club’s favour the decision would have major ramifications for press freedom.

The Trinity Mirror daily has already lost a Court of Appeal decision which upheld an initial interlocutory (provisional) injunction brought by the owners of the nightclub.

It prevented the Echo publishing allegations about the nightclub made by former accounts manager Chumki Banerjee.

The case centres on how British courts interpret the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into British law.

Section 12 of the act was thought to make it harder for complainants to get provisional injunctions stopping publication.

It states: “such injunctions should only be granted if the court is satisfied the complainant is likely to be successful at appeal.”

Dickinson said: “The whole point of the Human Rights Act was to raise the threshold. If the Lords fail to give affect to what Parliament intended, we will have a privacy law in the front door – never mind the back.” Managing editor Chris Walker, who has been closely involved with the legal fight, said: “Given the Naomi Campbell case, when they split threetwo, who knows how they will split this time? We thought the case was put as forcefully as it could have been and it is now in the hands of the judges.

“It’s a very important point of law which will have a significant effect on the way that all journalists are able to defend these sorts of cases. I understand that the Appeal Court decision has already led to an increase in the number of interlocutory injunction applications.”

Although Cream no longer runs a regular club night in Liverpool the organisation still operates an annual festival in the city as well as events in holiday destinations such as Ibiza.

If the House of Lords judgment goes in the Echo’s favour, Walker said the paper plans to publish its original story straight away.

He said: “It will still be a good story, a story’s not old until it’s told.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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