A step towards privacy law by the back door, says Hello! chief

The outcome of the case is a step towards privacy law by the back door and one which could have far-reaching consequences, Hello! publisher Sally Cartwright claimed this week, writes Ruth Addicott.

Cartwright said the ruling that the contract with OK! had equal status to a commercial trade secret could have a large impact on editors in the future.

“The judge found there is no law of privacy in this country which is good news for all print media.

“What the consequences are of his decision that a contract of coverage has equivalent status to a commercial trade secret could actually be quite far-reaching.

“This may be a step towards privacy law by the back door,” she told Press Gazette.

Cartwright said she was “delighted” that nine out of 13 claims against Hello! were thrown out and pleased the judge dismissed any suggestion of conspiracy.

“He found that we didn’t commission the pictures, which I am hugely relieved about, and that we didn’t set out to damage the Douglases. All of that is very good news,” she said.

Hello! is considering an appeal, but Cartwright said: “I think we need to sit back and think about things for a little longer first. Really, I think all of us – and I have to include OK! – must be fed up to the back teeth of courtrooms.”

She claimed the damages, to be decided at a later date, would not be “anything like the millions that have been talked about”.

Martin Townsend, who was editor of OK! at the time and is now editor of the Sunday Express, said: “The judge’s decision upheld the basis of trust on which OK! deals with major stars. It also recognised the considerable measure of dishonesty displayed by Hello! right up to and including their officers’ dishonesty in court.”

Paul Ashford, editorial director of OK! publisher Northern & Shell, added: “This is a resounding and historic victory for OK! magazine, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

“We are satisfied that Mr Justice Lindsay has recognised that Hello! acted with a measure of dishonesty which included their senior officers giving false evidence in court. The ruling will enable OK! to maintain its dominant market position.”

Ruth Addicott

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