Supreme Court reserves decision in sex story celebrity case


A celebrity who wants to keep his name out of a tabloid newspaper story about his alleged extra-marital activities must wait to find out if he has won a battle at the Supreme Court.

On Thursday, a panel of five justices headed by Lord Neuberger reserved their decision and said the injunction in the case would remain in place in the meantime.

The man, PJS, was appealing against the Court of Appeal's decision that the order barring The Sun on Sunday from naming him should be lifted.

Publishers News Group Newspapers (NGN) won the first round of the privacy dispute in January when a High Court judge refused to impose an injunction.

But PJS successfully appealed and that was the position until earlier this week when NGN's lawyers said the ban should go because the man had been named in articles abroad - outside the legal jurisdiction of England and Wales - and his name could be found on the internet.

On Thursday, PJS's counsel, Desmond Browne QC, said that the discharge of the injunction would have "devastating consequences" for him and his children and lead to a "storm of harassment".

There was a need to protect the children and that was an issue not just now but for the future when they grew up.

He said it was hard to see that the Court of Appeal had afforded the children "the primacy of importance " to which they were entitled.

Where an injunction had been granted to protect the personal privacy of a claimant and his family, the question arose of whether accessibility to information on the internet and social media rendered it effectively pointless and the court effectively powerless.

But an injunction did more than protect the secrecy of information, he said. It also extended to protection from intrusion and harassment.

He said that the English media had embarked on a campaign to ridicule the grant of the injunction with the twin aims of encouraging their readers to find the prohibited information online and put pressure on the court to lift the injunction.

The justices needed to consider the practical ramifications of the Court of Appeal's findings and "whether they are acceptable in a country under the rule of law rather than the press".

Gavin Millar QC for NGN said the position had changed from January when no information about the matter was available to the public.

Since it "took off" on the internet and globally on April 6, all the English mainstream media had reported the story.

Its dissemination was not something a court could prevent, he said. That was the reality.

"The process continues over a period. One type of transmission feeds the other.

"You pick up information on the internet, you may search for more on the web, you may discuss it on social media."

He added: "And people do still talk. It's easy to forget they do. They communicate in pubs and in cafes and over the garden fence.

"Once a story has currency on the internet, it does become the subject of discussion between people in the jurisdiction."

He said it was unlikely, given the information available to the public, that a permanent injunction would be obtained at trial - when NGN would argue that aspects of the story were in the public interest.

As the Court of Appeal said, the interests of the children were not a trump card in this situation, he added.

It was a case about balancing rights. One had to be realistic about the possibility that publicity would occur and steps could be taken to protect the children.

The information was out there on the internet to be seen. That might not be desirable but it was the factual position, he said.