Law of Confidence Provides Insufficient Privacy

Profession:Herbert Smith
 
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On 28th January 2003 the European Court of Human Rights gave judgment in Peck v The United Kingdom. It is a case that may have profound implications for the development of the law of confidence in the United Kingdom and provide fresh impetus for the creation of a separate tort of infringement of privacy.

Background

In 1995 the Applicant was caught on CCTV walking alone in the town of Brentwood with a knife in his hand. He subsequently attempted suicide, although this was not seen on camera. Subsequently Brentwood Borough Council (the "Council") produced a press release including still photographs taken from the CCTV footage. Still photographs and the CCTV footage were then provided to local newspapers, Anglia Television and the BBC who published them and included them in television broadcasts. When broadcast by Anglia Television and the BBC, the face of the Applicant was obscured but it was nevertheless still possible to identify him. The BBC also broadcast a number of trailers including the coverage without any attempt to mask the Applicant's identity.

The Applicant made complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Commission ("BSC") in respect of the BBC broadcast, the Independent Television Commission ("ITC") in respect of the Anglia TV broadcast and the Press Complaints Commission ("PCC") in respect of the press publicity. The BSC held that there had been an unwarranted infringement of the Applicant's privacy. Anglia TV accepted that there had been a breach of the ITC code. The PCC rejected the Applicant's complaint on the grounds that the events took place in a town high street that was open to public view.

The Applicant also applied for judicial review of the Council's decision to disclose the CCTV footage. After a full hearing in the High Court, that application was rejected. The Applicant then lodged an application against the United Kingdom in the European Court of Human Rights claiming that the disclosure and subsequent publication and broadcast of the CCTV footage was a disproportionate interference with his private life contrary to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights ("ECHR") and that UK law did not provide him with an effective remedy in respect of that interference contrary to Article 13 of the ECHR.

The Decision

The Court held that there had been breaches of both Articles 8 and 13. The Applicant had been in a public street but he was not participating in a public event, nor was he a public figure. The...

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