Landmark House of Lords press freedom victory

The Liverpool Echo has won a major victory for Press Freedom after the House of Lords ruled it can publish allegations about nightclub promoters Cream based on confidential documents.

The ruling marks the end of a two-year press legal battle lodged by the Liverpool Echo and its parent company Trinity Mirror.

It all started in June 2002 when the Echo was approached by Chumkee Banerjee, a former accountant for Liverpool-based Cream.

She went to the Echo with allegations of financial irregularity at Cream which were backed up documents copied without permission.

The Echo published an initial article about the alleged irregularities, which also involved a senior council officer, and then approached Cream to respond to a series of questions regarding further allegations about the company.

The nightclub promoters succeeded in obtaining an interlocutory (provisional) order preventing publication of information from the confidential documents in July 2002.

Liverpool Echo took the case the Court of Appeal in January 2003 and lost there forcing it take the fight on to the House of Lords.

Maddie Mogford, from Reynolds Porter Chamberlain who are the London agents for the Echo’s lawyers, said: “The Court found that the newspapers’ claim that publication of the information was of serious public interest would prevail and therefore Cream Group’s prospects of success at trial are not sufficiently likely to justify making an interim restraint order in this case.

“This judgment is good news for the media as it means that in order to restrict their right to freedom of expression – to restrain publication of private information – a claimant will have to show that he is more likely than not to succeed at trial. This will be difficult where the information is of public interest or already in the public domain to some extent.”

The case centred 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”.

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