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Return to Street on Torts 15e student resources

Chapter 22 Guidance on answering the end-of-chapter problem questions

Privacy actions in tort

This scenario might reveal either a misuse of private information or an intrusion into private life tort. As regards the former, the information at issue is that concerning the sexual relationship between Joyce and the Deputy Principals. Information about sexual relationships which do not break the law normally would attract an expectation of privacy; and the courts appear to have become more eager to protect such information: PJS v News Group Newspapers. Obviously there has been a disclosure of the information, but the question is whether it is (un)justified. An argument might be made that this is a case in which the newspapers have got the right to ‘set the record straight’: A v B. Whether this right of expression would be upheld (against the background of European Convention Article 10, protected under the Human Rights Act 1998) is difficult to say. The principal is not a ‘public figure’, but has not been practising what she preaches either: see Campbell case. As regards the taking of the picture, this reveals a very intimate moment between Joyce and two others. It is this sort of intrusion that courts have become more wary of where the result of publication would be to cause distress and embarrassment: PJS case. Thus, although there might be argument about the need for freedom of expression, there are limits to the extent to which expression is worth protecting. Obviously this is a developing area of law, and we are dealing here with a fluid situation! Remedies could include injunctions against further publication and/or damages.