John Terry, the Chelsea FC football captain, was recently the focus of press attention following an affair with the ex-partner of his England team mate, Wayne Bridge. Mr Terry sought an injunction preventing the details of the affair being made public. Although he was originally granted an injunction, the same judge then decided to overturn it.
Previous cases involving footballers’ privacy have tended to indicate that once an injunction has been granted, it will remain in place. The media are therefore keen to say that this development represents a major change, but there is considerable debate over what this case actually means in terms of privacy laws and how they will be applied in the future.
In cases of this kind, a balance always has to be found between Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), which grants the right to respect for private and family life, and Article 10, which grants the right to freedom of expression. Invoking Article 10, the media argued that as Mr Terry was a role model, it was in the public interest for the details of his affair to be made known. Mr Terry wished to invoke Article 8 and have his private and family life respected.
In determining whether or not an injunction should be granted, the court will consider as relevant the attributes of the person applying for the injunction, so where an individual is of particularly strong character, the courts may see less need to interfere with the media’s freedom of expression. How widely the information has already been disseminated will also be a factor in the decision.
There have been similar cases involving footballers and others in the public eye, but each will be decided on its own merits and whether greater emphasis should be placed on Article 8 or 10 of the HRA will depend entirely on the circumstances in each given case.