Victoria Beckham fails to win summary privacy ruling

Victoria Beckham failed in an attempt to land a knock-out blow in her High Court privacy case against Grazia magazine over what it called a “trivial and anodyne” article.

The former Spice Girl is suing over a story which appeared in the magazine in April and claimed she had been in “1am crisis talks” with husband David.

But on Friday Mr Justice Eady rejected her application for summary judgment against publisher Bauer Consumer Media Ltd, ruling that it would not be appropriate and that there should be a full trial.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Beckham, had argued that the article, about a concerned Mrs Beckham phoning her husband when he went out in Los Angeles, involved the use of private information protected by law.

“This is an article which we say trespasses into the private sphere in circumstances where there is really no proper justification,” he told the judge.

Although there was a large volume of previously published material about the couple, it was up to Mrs Beckham to decide what information she decided to publish about herself to Grazia, he said, adding: “It’s at this point in relation to this article that the claimant has chosen to draw a line in the sand.”

This was not a case about freedom of the press or freedom of expression,Tomlinson said.

“The press is of course free to write whatever they want by way of comment or analysis, negative or positive, about the claimant and, if there are proper reasons, they are entitled to write about her private life, but this is not a case where there are proper reasons.

“This is a publication which is simply designed to entertain the readers of Grazia for its own commercial purposes.

“It’s selling copies on the back of what are claimed to be revelations about Victoria Beckham’s private life and it is at that point that the law clearly draws a line.”

It did not matter, he added, if the story was true or false but, in fact, it was made up and came from sources that were either non-existent or spinning a line.

Matthew Nicklin, for the publishers, denied that there was any breach of privacy, claiming that the story, which he described as “trivial and anodyne”, was reliable and justified.

In any event, “expectation of privacy depends on who you are and what you do”, he said, adding: “Although privacy claims by people in the public eye are nothing new, this is the first case where the court has had to deal with someone who makes the exploitation and sale of their personal privacy the touchstone of their fame.”

There was a difference between those who were thrust into the limelight and those who rushed into it, and Mrs Beckham’s was the first case “where we have a real representative of the category called publicity-seeker”, he said.

As Mrs Beckham had published autobiographies laying bare her innermost thoughts about life with her husband, there was an air of unreality about her complaint to Grazia, Mr Nicklin went on, adding that one of the roles of the press was to act as a watchdog to hypocrisy – including the spinning that went on in relation to the promotion of Brand Beckham and the couple’s blissfully happy marriage.

Mrs Beckham was not in court for the hearing.

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