Last year I did an article in relation to a High Court claim to stop photographs of a child taken abroad and published here which no doubt was an expensive action involving some new and difficult issues posed by on line publications.
The children were of Paul Weller, of the Jam and subsequent fame, out shopping and at a café with his children in Los Angeles and it was decided that the publication breached the children's right to privacy. The children had a reasonable expectation of privacy as the photographs showed their faces.
The children's right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights overrode the newspaper's right to freedom of expression. There was no public interest in the publication.
In respect of the expectation of privacy the judge said one must have regard to all the circumstances, including the fact the claimants were children, what they were doing and where, what impact the publication had on the child,that the children had not consented to the photographs and how the Mail Online got the photographs.
The fact that publication was not unlawful in Los Angeles was relevant but not conclusive in deciding if there was a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The café was in a public place on the street, and partly in a café, which was visible from the street. The publisher knew there was no consent for the taking of the photos but did not know of the harassment of one child by the photographer or of the promise made by the photographer to Mr Weller to ensure pixilation.
The circumstances in which the photographs were taken were upsetting and one child felt threatened and embarrassed. Mr Weller and Hannah Weller were very upset and concerned about the publication of the photographs showing the faces of their children and had security concerns as a result.
Mr Weller had spoken about the children as a proud father when interviewed by newspapers, and a considerable amount of information had been tweeted about them as they were growing up. Two of the children had been shown in the media as photographed from a distance, but there were no published media photographs showing a full view of their faces. One child had been shown in a limited number of photographs. Photographs showing the faces of the children on an afternoon out with their father had not previously been published.
The public interest was not relevant and the photographs had only been published because Mr Weller was well known. The balance of the general interest of having a vigorous and flourishing newspaper industry did not outweigh the interests of the children in this case.
The parties agreed if there had been an unlawful use of private information the Data Protection Act 1998, which there was, then the Data Protection Act 1998 had been breached as well.
My view is that for a child’s right to privacy to be out weighed by the freedom of expression of newspapers or others in the public interest would need something strong in the balance the other way but once again one can see the challenges which the international dimension and more recent forms of communication such as international digital journalism and social media pose for the law. I did not think Mr Weller should be criticised for the fact that he may be able to pursue this claim to protect his children where other parents may not be able to afford that as he like other parents was rightly proud and protective of his children.
Hannah Weller deserves credit for sticking her head above the parapet to support a law to make it illegal to publish photograph's of children without their parents' consent so as to give a simpler remedy to other parents.
Parliament has been urged to make it illegal to publish photos of children without their parents' consent. It follows a campaign by the wife of the rock star Paul Weller, who won a high court battle last year over unpixelated photos of their children published by a newspaper website.