Euan Blair and girlfriend sue Sunday Express for privacy

Euan Blair and his girlfriend Suzanne Ashman are the latest public figures to sue for invasion of privacy.

The pair have filed a High Court claim for damages of £50,000 over an Express Newspapers story which wrongly reported they had become engaged.

The move comes amid widespread concern in the media that the UK is developing a “backdoor privacy law” which is being arrived at by successive legal judgments rather than any new legislation.

This was the case made by Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre last year when he spoke out in the wake of Max Mosley being awarded £60,000 in privacy damages from the News of the World over its revelations about his extra marital sado-masochistic activities.

Blair, the son of former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie, complains that their privacy has been invaded, and is seeking damages for this, and for breach of confidence and misuse of private information.

The case centres around a story in the Sunday Express on 1 March which claimed the couple had become engaged after bank analyst Blair, 24, proposed to his girlfriend, a student at Oxford.

Blair and his girlfriend deny this, and Blair disputes he has proposed. They say they are not public figures, have not sought publicity for their private lives, and are keen to keep details of their private lives away from the media.

They accuse Express Newspapers of unlawfully infringing their right to privacy, and respect for their private lives, and say the paper has misused their private information, and acted in breach of confidence.

The story was designed to satisfy readers’ prurient interests about details of his private life, presumably on the spurious basis that his father was the former prime minister, according to a High Court writ. There could, the writ says, be no public interest in the information.

Both accuse the paper of breaching the Data Protection Act 1988 and say they suffered considerable distress and embarrassment. They say the false announcement of their engagement, without first obtaining their consent, was a serious intrusion into their privacy.

It was, they say, highly offensive that the paper did not even bother to check with them first, and a breach of the most basic tenets of responsible journalism. They say the paper showed a blatant disregard for their rights, and are seeking aggravated damages.

The Sunday Express has refused to apologise to them, or to accept it invaded their privacy and has treated them dismissively, the writ claims. The paper has steadfastly refused to accept its claim was untrue, and has stood by its anonymous source, it is alleged.

The pair are shown as living at separate addresses in London in court documents. They are seeking damages, and aggravated damages, or an account of profits, and payment of sums found due. They are also seeking an injunction banning repetition of the allegations.

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