Legal action for breach of privacy under English law
UK law recognises a right to privacy. The right to privacy is a right of any individual against intrusion, or invasion of his own personal life or affairs, as well as the life of their family.
Under English law, there are certain situations or personal conducts that although one might consider immoral, or of the types that fall below the generally expected standard of conduct, are still considered as private. An example might be a person who is a public figure who often projects certain morals and ways of behaviour but who in private, acts in a way which is contrary to his public image. Any person has a right of action against any other person who is intending to publish information about him, which relates to his personal affairs or conduct.
English law also recognises a cause of action under the tort of breach of confidence. Breach of confidence relates to information, which was intimated to another person on a private basis.
You can bring a claim for breach of privacy under common law or under European law based on Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. You can also bring a claim for breach of privacy under General data protection regulations (GDPR). In most cases, claims for breach of privacy are brought under the headings of misuse of private information and/or breach of confidence.
Depending on your circumstances, it might be appropriate to start a claim for breach of privacy by sending a letter before the action to the person or to the website operators which are responsible for the breach of your privacy. However, in other cases, this might be inappropriate or too dangerous because you could be alerting the third party to the fact that you are intending to bring a claim against him for breach of privacy. The third party might then nevertheless decide to publish the private information before you were able to stop them from doing so with a court order.
So, in some cases, you should first obtain a privacy injunction and only then notify the third party that they must not publish your private information and that there is a court order that prevents them from doing so. The third party will then be bound by the injunction and will not be able to publish the private information without risking being in contempt of court. If you obtain an emergency privacy injunction on this basis, the court will require you to list the case for a second hearing, after you have served the privacy injunction on the third party, so that they can come to court to explain why they believe there is sufficient justification to publish your private information.
The priority for most of our clients is to prevent the publication of their private information, or to remove any such publication from the internet. In addition, they want the Defendant to undertake, or to be ordered by the court, to refrain from publishing the private information in the future.
You can claim damages for breach of privacy in the UK and the Defendant may be ordered to pay you damages for infringing your right to self-control over your private information and for any distress and anxiety or embarrassment that you might have felt as a result of the breach of your private information or the misuse of it.
There might be a defence to a claim for misuse of private information. The Defendant might object to your assertion that the information they have published is confidential, or private. They might deny that they are the people responsible for the disclosure or the publication of the private information. They might also claim that you gave your consent for the disclosure of the information, or they might assert their rights for free expression under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. This could happen for example in cases where there is a clear public interest in the communication of your private information to the public at large.
You can bring a claim for the disclosure of any private information regardless of whether the information disclosed is true or false. The only issue that the court will be concerned about is whether the information is private or is capable of being private. Therefore, even if the information disclosed is false or inaccurate, you may still have a right to bring a claim under privacy law and the misuse of your private information.
If you don't know who the person is that published your private information, you can either bring the claim against person unknown or you may obtain a court order against the host of a website or again a telephone company or an internet service provider, to compel them to disclose to you the identity of the individual who published your private information.
If your matter is urgent and you need to stop the publication of your private information without delay, we will be able to prepare your case and an application for a privacy injunction within a few hours. If you feel that the private information which is being published is placing you at a physical risk, you should also report the matter to the police. If the private information was published a while ago, you might find it difficult to convince the court to grant you an emergency privacy injunction and the court might insist that you give the publisher notice of the hearing first.
Very often breach of privacy also involves harassment. This will be the case if the privacy breach, or the threat of it, is causing you alarm or distress. Even if the publication of your private information only occurs once, you will still be able to satisfy the requirement of a course of conduct by the Defendant. This is because, even a single publication, which is being viewed time and time again by different people in difficult times, is considered a course of conduct. Therefore, a single publication of private information could be considered harassment.