Tuesday, 2 June 2009


Lord Falconer defends judge's privacy rulings

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* Leigh Holmwood and agencies
* guardian.co.uk, Monday 10 November 2008 15.39 GMT
* Article history

A high court judge accused by the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, of bringing in a privacy law "by the back door" was today defended by the former constitutional affairs secretary Lord Falconer.

Dacre last night accused Mr Justice Eady - who ruled against the News of the World in a privacy case earlier this year after it exposed the sex life of the formula one boss Max Mosley - of using the Human Rights Act to curb the press's freedom to expose the moral shortcomings of those in high places.

In his speech to the Society of Editors in Bristol, Dacre said the "arrogant and amoral" judgments of Eady were "inexorably and insidiously" imposing a privacy law on British newspapers.

However, Falconer, one of the New Labour architects of human rights protections in the UK who left the cabinet when Gordon Brown took over as prime minister last year, said the judge was legitimately interpreting a law that had been passed by parliament.

"I think society now puts a value on privacy. There are certain things in life that should be private. For example, if I am a singer or an actor and I have a miscarriage, is that something that people should know about in the world?" Falconer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Of course, if I'm acting hypocritically or I'm accountable, or there's something that may affect what I do in my public life which emerges from my private life, that should be published," he said.

"But there are things which are private and just as we don't want the state to know everything about us, do we want things that are legitimately private to be made public? I don't think we do."

Falconer said that the Mosley case had brought the debate into "sharp relief".

"What the court is saying there, is 'that's private, it's nothing to do with the public, there was nothing hypocritical about it'," he added.

"The judge did say if it had involved anything to do with Nazi behaviour or anything wholly inappropriate in relation to the Holocaust, he would have not said it was something that was legitimately private.

"But the human rights convention does say we've got a legitimate entitlement to privacy. It gives way to the public interest, but if there is no public interest then you should keep it private."

However, Dacre found backing today from the managing editor of the Sun, Graham Dudman.

"The issue here is that Justice Eady is unelected and unaccountable," Dudman told the Today programme.

"Parliament has not made these decisions, one man has. There is no doubt that Justice Eady is a very talented and clever and able lawyer, but surely the public has a right to make these decisions and not least a jury should be there," he said.

"You have one man setting the law in relation to newspapers, which cannot be right."

Dacre, who is also editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, lambasted what he called the "wretched" Human Rights Act in his speech.

He said that in supporting Mosley, Eady had in effect "ruled that it was perfectly acceptable for the multimillionaire head of a multibillion sport that is followed by countless young people to pay five women £2,500 to take part in acts of unimaginable sexual depravity with him".

"Most people would consider such activities to be perverted, depraved, the very abrogation of civilised behaviour of which the law is supposed to be the safeguard," Dacre added.

"Not Justice Eady. To him such behaviour was merely 'unconventional'. Nor in his mind was there anything wrong in a man of such wealth using his money to exploit women in this way. Would he feel the same way, I wonder, if one of those women had been his wife or daughter?"

Dacre said that the "greatest scandal" was that Eady was given a "virtual monopoly of all cases against the media enabling him to bring in a privacy law by the back door".

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