Harry and Meghan – Right to privacy and family life -v- freedom of expression

Harry and Meghan have hardly been out of the headlines in recent weeks.  Their decision to no longer use their HRH titles and not to receive public funds for royal duties, together with their outspoken criticism of the media, has made headlines across the media.  Whilst their actions have been the subject of a lot of comment it should be borne in mind that they enjoy the same rights as we all do. The reporting into their decision raises some interesting arguments based on the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

Article 8 of the European Convention 1950 deals with the right to respect for private and family life.  It reads as follows:

  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
  2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 10, on the other hand, deals with freedom of expression.  It states:

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.  This Article shall not prevent states from requiring the licencing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
  2. The exercise of these freedoms since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection or the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

There is an interplay between Articles 8 and 10.  This was seen in the high profile House of Lords case of Naomi Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers Limited in 2004.  Ms Campbell had been photographed leaving a Narcotics Anonymous clinic and so sought damages for breach of confidentiality in relation to the covertly taken pictures. In this case the Court recognised that an individual may have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place and that this expectation was unjustly infringed in this case. Full details of this interesting case can be read via the following link:

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200304/ldjudgmt/jd040506/campbe-1.htm

The royals may fight for their privacy but the press will fight to continue to report about them. There is no doubt that this legislation will be at the forefront of any potential case brought by Harry and Meghan against the press.