MP’s partner loses privacy and harassment case against newspaper publisher

24 May 2012. Published by Keith Mathieson, Partner

Carina Trimingham has lost her privacy and harassment case against the publishers of the Daily Mail.

Ms Trimingham, who is the partner of the former cabinet minister Chris Huhne MP, sued Associated Newspapers for infringement of her rights under three separate statutes: (a) misuse of private information pursuant to the Human Rights Act 1998 and ECHR Art 8; (b) the Protection from Harassment Act 1997; and (c) the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, s.97.  Her claims originally related to eight articles in the Daily Mail but were later extended to over 60 articles. 

Following a five day trial in April, Mr Justice Tugendhat dismissed all of Ms Trimingham’s claims.  His judgment was handed down today and is available here.

The articles complained of

The eight articles originally complained of concerned Ms Trimingham’s affair with Mr Huhne.  She later complained about more than 50 further articles, most of which mentioned her sexuality.  Before she had begun her relationship with Mr Huhne, Ms Trimingham had been married and following the break-up of that marriage she had undergone a civil partnership ceremony with a woman. 

The photographs complained of

Ms Trimingham complained of the publication of two photographs.  One was of her prior to her civil partnership ceremony.  The other was of her and her family at the ceremony.

The claims

There was no claim for libel – Ms Trimingham did not dispute that the stories were true.  Her complaint was that the articles and photographs individually infringed her privacy and when taken together amounted to harassment.

The judge’s findings

The judgment is over 80 pages in length and will be the subject of more detailed analysis on this blog in due course.  In short:

  • The judge disagreed with Ms Trimingham’s description of herself as a private individual: she “was not the purely private figure she claims to be.  Her reasonable expectation of privacy has become limited.  This is mainly by reason of her involvement with Mr Huhne, both professionally, as his press agent, and personally, as his secret mistress, in circumstances where he campaigned with a leaflet to the electorate of Eastleigh about how much he valued his family.”  The judge also noted that Ms Trimingham herself disclsoed information to newspapers about other people and so “was a person who ought not reasonably to be expected to be distressed when such information was published about herself”.
  • The references to Ms Trimingham’s sexuality were published in the context of public interest stories about Mr Huhne and were within the range of what an editor could in good faith regard as relevant.
  • Ms Trimingham’s distress was the result of the publication by Associated, and also other publishers, of true information about her which was also defamatory but in respect of which she had made no claim of libel.
  • The allegedly insulting and offensive material of which Ms Trimingham complained was not so unreasonable that it was necessary or proportionate to sanction or prohibit it in order to protect Ms Trimingham’s rights.  Ms Trimingham could not show that a reasonable person in the position of the defendant ought to have known that its articles amounted to harassment of her.
  • Ms Trimingham had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the photographs.  There was no claim under s 85 of the CPDA as the photographs were not “commissioned”.

Possible appeal

Ms Tringham’s application for permission to appeal has been refused by Tugendhat J.  However, she has said she will seek permission from the Court of Appeal. 

RPC acted for Associated Newspapers in the Carina Trimingham case.

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