Campbell v MGN Ltd

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Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd
Court House of Lords
Transcript(s) Full text of judgment
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Lord Nicholls, Lord Hoffman, Baroness Hale, Lord Carswell, Lord Hope

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 through her lawyers Schillings who engaged Richard Spearman QC to bring a claim for breach of confidence engaging section 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 recognize 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 had been a drug addict, she challenged the disclosure of information about the location of her Narcotics Anonymous meetings. The photographs, she argued, formed part of this information.


First instance[edit]

MGN was found liable. MGN appealed.

Court of Appeal[edit]

MGN was 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[edit]

Held, 3:2 (Lords Nicholls and Hoffman dissenting), that MGN was liable. Lord Hoffman and Lord Nicholls dissented on the ground that as the Mirror was allowed to publish the fact that she was a drug addict and that she was receiving treatment for her addiction that printing the pictures of her leaving her NA meeting was within the margin of appreciation of the editors as they were allowed to state that she was an addict and receiving treatment for her addiction, while the majority (Hale, Hope, Carswell) believed that the picture added something of 'real significance'.

in particular observed that "confidence" was an artificial term for what could more naturally be termed "privacy".

Approving A v B plc,[1] 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"[2] in the plaintiff's position[3] can be used for guidance.


The court engaged in a balancing test. Firstly determining whether the applicant had a reasonable expectation of privacy (thus determining whether Art.8 ECHR was involved), it then asked if the claimant was successful would this result in a significant inference with freedom of expression (balancing Art. 8 with Art. 10). It was held that Campbell's right to privacy (ECHR, Sch 1, Part I, Art 8) outweighed MGN's right to freedom of expression (ECHR Art 10).

See also[edit]

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:

External links[edit]


  1. ^ A v B plc [2003] QB 195 per Lord Woolf CJ
  2. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation v Lenah Game Meats Pty Ltd (2001) 208 CLR 199
  3. ^ at [92]