Jan 12

A Leveson question for Paul Dacre

There are many things the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Mail Paul Dacre no doubt wants to say to the Leveson Inquiry when he appears before it on February 6th and plenty of questions lined up by the Inquiry’s lawyers. I have a small suggestion.

The elusive and much-disputed idea of the “public interest” will play an important part in Leveson’s deliberations. Public interest defences – such as exceptional justifications for intrusion, for example – are written into the Press Complaints Commission’s code of conduct and into several laws. Back in the middle of last year, public interest was an important issue in one of the cases which triggered several public rows and court cases over privacy injunctions.

One of these cases involved Sir Fred Goodwin, the disgraced ex-head of the Royal Bank of Scotland. While in charge of the bank, Goodwin had had an affair with a female colleague. Injunctions were granted to prevent the disclosure of the names of either party. Despite the injunction, Goodwin’s name was freely bandied about on Twitter and he was named in the House of Commons by an MP. A judge, Mr Justice Tugendhat, eventually cancelled the order concealing Goodwin’s identity but kept in place the one preventing the naming of his lover.

The Daily Mail did not approve of the judge’s decision, running as many details (“the mistress on a six-figure salary”) about the woman as it thought it could get away with. Or so it appeared. A number of different court hearings were held on this case and this is the judgement covering what the Mail had said. It repays careful reading.

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