Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is not happy. In his speech to the Society of Editors last night, he railed against the dangers of the creeping introduction of the notion of privacy in UK law. Specifically, he singled out Mr Justice Eady, whose judgments in privacy cases he described as ‘arrogant and amoral’.
Privacy is undoubtedly a problem for the UK media. As Dacre rightly points out, Eady’s decisions upholding the right to privacy tend to favour the wealthy and powerful, making it extremely difficult for journalists to expose hypocrisy and conflicts of interest.
The right to privacy is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. As Gavin Millar wrote on indexoncensorship.org last week, ‘The right to privacy… was initially designed to prevent state interference in our private lives.’
But British judges, and particularly Eady, seem to have decided that the positive obligation of courts to protect privacy extends to ‘protection against unjustifiable media intrusion into people’s lives’.
The argument, then, becomes about what is and what isn’t justifiable. Paul Dacre and other editors have one definition. Mr Justice Eady’s definition is quite different.
UPDATE: The Daily Telegraph‘s Joshua Rozenberg is hosting a debate on Dacre’s remarks on the Sky News website at 12.30 (BST). Watch it here