Mail hails 'hugely important victory for media freedom'

 

  • Associated: Losing case would have cost us more than £1m
  • Huhne portrayed himself as "a great family man"
  • Trimingham could be left £160,000 out of pocket

The Daily Mail today described its privacy case victory against Carina Trimingham as "a hugely important victory for the freedom of the media as a whole".

Trimingham has been ordered to pay Associated Newspapers' legal costs of £410,000, and the group has revealed that losing would have cost the publisher more than £1m.

The case largely rested on whether it was pejorative for the Mail and Mail on Sunday to make reference to Trimingham's lesbian past in 65 "high unpleasant and hurtful articles"m which appeared after June 2010 when it became public that former cabinet minister Chris Huhne was leaving his wife for her.

These included a Richard Littlejohn article which described her as a "comedy lesbian from central casting".

But Mr Justice Tugendhat said yesterday: "Her reasonable expectation of privacy has become limited.

"This is mainly by reason of her involvement with Mr Huhne, both professionally, as his press agent, and personally as his secret mistress, in circumstances where he campaigned with a leaflet to the electorate of Eastleigh about how much he valued his family. But it is also by reason of what she herself has disclosed in the past."

He added later in the judgment: "insulting and offensive speech is protected by the right of freedom of expression".

In a leader column today the Mail said it was relevant to refer to Trimingham's bisexuality because: "she was involved in a civil partnership with another woman at the time her relationship with Mr Huhne began".

Noting that Huhne portrayed himself as "a great family man" during the 2010 general election campaign, the Mail said: "Ms Trimingham, who admitted selling stories to papers, even helped run that family-values campaign while conducting her affair with father of five Mr Huhne – thus deceiving both his wife and the voters of Eastleigh.

"Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled journalists have a right not only to report on the transgressions of deceitful public figures, but also that the background of individuals involved is deeply relevant.

"If the case had gone against the Mail, it could have cost the paper well over £1million. It would have been a bitter blow against the public's right to know."

In his judgment Tugendhat said: "The public has an interest in knowing how the personal life of a leading politician, especially a Cabinet Minister, is likely to affect, or has affected, the business of government. So Ms Trimingham in her private capacity chose to take the risk of being mixed up in a political scandal, which her own conduct precipitated…

"Where the press report the break-up through adultery of the marriage of a Cabinet Minister, a court should be slow to decide that information about the other woman which is included in the articles is irrelevant."

Regarding the Mail's commentary about the matter – including references to Trimingham's bisexuality – the judge said: "It would be a serious interference with freedom of expression if those wishing to express their own views could be silenced by, or threatened with, claims for harassment based on subjective claims by individuals that they feel offended or insulted."

According to the Mail, the maximum payout on Trimingham's legal insurance is £250,000 so she will be left £160,000 out of pocket. Her own lawyers, Mishcon de Reya, worked on a no win, no fee basis.

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