MP Chris Huhne’s partner Carina Trimingham today brought a High Court damages action over a “cataclysmic interference” with her private life.
The PR adviser, whose adulterous affair with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change became public in June 2010 – with Huhne leaving his wife of 26 years – is suing Associated Newspapers for misuse of private information.
Her counsel, William Bennett, told Mr Justice Tugendhat in London that – in eight newspaper articles and on its website Mail Online – the Daily Mail had exercised its expertise and determination to dig into 44-year-old Trimingham’s private life and disclose embarrassing facts.
It described her as 57-year-old Huhne’s “bisexual lover”, “boyish”, and referred to the “life and very different loves of the PR girl in Doc Martens”, saying she had had relationships with men and women “but generally not at the same time”.
“It is exposing aspects of the sexual history of the claimant which she says she is entitled to keep confidential, and we say there is no public interest in exposing those elements of her.”
Trimingham listened in court as Bennett said that Associated did not stop but “sent out the bloodhounds” and talked to unidentified “friends”.
Part of her claim for aggravated damages stemmed from the uncertainty this created about knowing who she could trust.
The newspaper referred to her brief marriage to a man and published an “inherently private” photo of the 2007 civil partnership ceremony between Trimingham and another woman.
Counsel said that columnist Richard Littlejohn “stuck the boot in” by referring to Trimingham “in a deeply unpleasant manner” – as a “comedy lesbian from central casting”.
“One can barely imagine how a reasonable person would react to the publication of this series of articles over 11 days in June 2010 or how someone in the claimant’s position would react to the continuing publication on the website, along with many insulting comments from readers which are clearly inspired by the material which breaches her right to privacy, particularly in regard to sexuality.
“We say, taking all these into account, any reasonable person would experience a cataclysmic interference with their private life as a result.”
Associated’s QC, Antony White, said Trimingham was not a purely private individual but an experienced communications consultant who helped politicians present their message and image to the public.
She was Huhne’s press officer when he was seeking election as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in 2007 and in his campaign for re-election as an MP in 2010.
White said that, in 2007, Huhne made public statements to the effect that nothing in the nature of marital infidelity would emerge in relation to his private life.
In March 2008, Huhne and Trimingham began a sexual relationship that was concealed from his wife and children and from Trimingham’s civil partner Julie Bennett.
At the 2010 General Election, Huhne was defending a very slim majority of 568 votes and his party had been dogged by scandals relating to sex and sexuality.
“That’s an important backdrop against which Chris Huhne, with the assistance of Carina Trimingham, had to decide how to present himself to the electorate.”
Huhne presented himself as committed family man
Counsel said that Huhne decided to present himself as a committed family man and produced an election leaflet featuring photos of his wedding day and children.
“Two people knew the truth about that blatant piece of political hypocrisy and those two people, Mr Huhne himself and the claimant, his press adviser Ms Trimingham, both knew that the message presented to the electorate was a false one.
“In fact, Chris Huhne was not committed to his own family – he was in a relationship which was leading to him leaving his wife – or committed to family values generally.
“He was engaged in a secret doubly adulterous relationship with the claimant.”
He said that those facts formed the “core” of an important public interest story which involved “serious hypocrisy by a minister of state”.
The newspaper was entitled to report it in full including information which would bring it to life for readers and present it in a hard hitting fashion.
He said that, in fact, Ms Trimingham, complained of only a small selection of short quotations from the articles, and this seemed to be more about their tone than the allegedly private information disclosed.
The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow
Trimingham’s case has been put off to an unspecified date – possibly before Christmas – after it was amended to add a claim for protection from harassment.
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