CASE AND COMMENT: CTB V (1) NEWS GROUP NEWSPAPERS LTD. (2) IMOGEN THOMAS (MAY 2011)

CTB v (1) News Group Newspapers Ltd (2) Imogen Thomas - May 2011

Facts:

The claimant, CTB obtained an injunction against The Sun newspaper and Imogen Thomas for misuse of private information to prevent Thomas disclosing details of their sexual relationship. Although the claimant has been identified in Parliament and named by over 75,000 users on Twitter, the High Court ruled that the injunction should not be lifted. In support of the injunction, CTB was concerned that he may be a victim of blackmail by Thomas. Thomas chose not to give any evidence denying CTB’s account of events contained in his witness statement of 14 April 2011. An application was made by Thomas for permission to read a unilateral statement in open court in response to the evidence which she did not challenge earlier in the proceedings.

Judgement and comment:

The application for permission to read a unilateral statement in open court was refused. Traditionally, such statements have only been available in defamation cases. Under an update to the Civil Procedure Rules, Mr Justice Eady held that a defendant could make an open statement in a malicious falsehood or privacy claim at the end of proceedings. The jurisdiction under CPR 53 PD 6.3 was not limited to claimants and defendants could also have the benefit of protecting their rights recognised under Article 8 – the right to a private life.

A proposed statement in open court should only be concerned with the wrongdoing which gave rise to the action. There were two matters which Thomas wished to ‘set straight’ in the statement. Firstly, that she denied responsibility for publication and it was published without her consent. Secondly, that she was not ‘blackmailing’ CTB. In this case, the proposed draft statement did not strive to resolve any of the matters disputed in earlier allegations. The ‘blackmail’ does not relate to privacy and is an extraneous issue. Therefore, the blackmail issue was ‘fudged’ and the court held that it could not provide a forum where such a statement would be irrelevant to the issues examined.

Although the application failed, the case is important as it establishes the principle that a party other than the claimant is permitted to make a statement in open court in a privacy claim.

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