Campbell v. MGN Ltd.

Campbell v. MGN Ltd.

"Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd" [2004] UKHL 22 was a House of Lords decision regarding human rights and privacy in English law.


Well-known model Naomi Campbell was photographed leaving a rehabilitation clinic, following public denials that she was a recovering drug addict. The photographs were published in a publication run by MGN.

Campbell sought damages under the English law of confidence, engaging s. 6 of the Human Rights Act, which required the court to operate compatibly with the European Convention on Human Rights. The desired result was a ruling that the English tort action for breach of confidence, subject to the ECHR provisions upholding the right to private and family life, would require the court to recognise the private nature of the information, and hold that there was a breach of her privacy.

Rather than challenge the disclosure of the fact she was a drug addict - which, given her previous denials, may be considered merely a rectification of a lie, she challenge the disclosure of information about the location of her Narcotics Meetings. The photographs, she argued, formed part of this information.


First instance

MGN were found liable.

MGN appealed.

Court of Appeal

MGN were not liable; the photographs could be published since, apparently, they were peripheral to the published story and served only to show her in a better light. It was within journalists' margin of appreciation to decide whether such "peripheral" information should be included.

Campbell appealed on the basis, "inter alia", that the aforementioned breach of confidence, subject to human rights principles of privacy, had occurred.

House of Lords

Held, 3:2 (Lords Nicholls and Hoffman dissenting), that MGN were liable.


Lord Nicholls in particular observed that "confidence" was an artificial term for what could more naturally be termed "privacy".This artificiality was a product of English law's lack of a concept of privacy "per se".

Approving "A v B plc" ["A v B plc" [2003] QB 195 per Lord Woolf CJ] , Lord Hope of Craighead noted that a duty of confidence arises wherever the defendant knows, or ought to know, that the claimant can reasonably expect their privacy to be protected. Where there is doubt, the test of what is "highly offensive to a reasonable person" ["Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd" (2001) 208 CLR 199] can be used for guidance.


Their Lordships did not give the matter as thorough a treatment as subsequent cases; it was held that Campbell's right to privacy (HRA, Sch. 1, Part I, Art 8) outweighted MGN's right to freedom of expression (HRA Art 10).

See also

The following cases served to crystallise privacy's inclusion in breach of confidence actions, dubbed a "vehicle" to give effect to the relevant ECHR provisions:
*Douglas v. Hello! Ltd. (No. 3) [2005] EWCA Civ 595
*His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales v. Associated Newspapers Ltd. [2006] EWCA Civ 1776

External links

* [ BAILII: Official Transcript]


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