Campbell v MGN Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division
JudgeThe Honourable Mr Justice Morland
Judgment Date27 March 2002
Neutral Citation[2002] EWHC 499 (QB)
Date27 March 2002
Docket NumberCase No: 2001 Claim no. 0100495

[2002] EWHC 499 (QB)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEENS BENCH DIVISION

Before

The Honourable Mr Justice Morland

Case No: 2001 Claim no. 0100495

Between
Naomi Campbell
Claimant
and
Mirror Group Newspapers
Defendant

Mr Andrew Caldecott Q.C. and Mr Antony White Q.C. (instructed by Schilling & Lom) for the Claimant

Mr Desmond Browne Q.C. Leading Mr Mark Warby and Miss Anna Coppola (instructed by MGN Ltd) for the Defendant

Hearing dates : 11th-15th February 2002

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1. no official shorthand note shall be taken of this judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

The Honourable Mr Justice Morland

APPROVED BY THE COURT FOR HANDING DOWN

Mr Justice Morland

Mr Justice Morland:

The Contentions .

1

Miss Naomi Campbell, the internationally renowned fashion model and celebrity, seeks damages for breach of confidentiality and compensation under Section 13 of the Data Protection Act 1998 in respect of articles with accompanying photographs published by the defendants in the Mirror on Thursday 1st February 2001 and Monday 5th February 2001.

2

She claims that as a result she suffered distress, embarrassment and anxiety which were aggravated by later publications in the Mirror and the defendant's conduct of the trial.

3

The articles revealed that contrary to her previous false assertions she was a drug addict and that she was attending meetings of Narcotics Anonymous to beat her addiction. Some details of those meetings were published in the Mirror together with photographs of her leaving a meeting in Chelsea.

4

It was accepted by Mr Andrew Caldecott Q.C. on her behalf that the Mirror was entitled to publish that she was a drug addict and the fact that she was having therapy, full stop. He contended that the information that the therapy was being obtained through Narcotics Anonymous and the details of her attendance at meetings were private and confidential matters and that there was no overriding public interest justifying their publication.

5

Mr Caldecott did not pursue the claim for damages for infringement of privacy.

6

On behalf of the Mirror there were denials that the defendant had acted in breach of confidence, that the information published was sensitive personal data and that the defendants were in breach of any duty under the Data Protection Act.

7

Mr Desmond Browne Q.C. for the defendant did not dispute that the claimant was entitled to damages and/or compensation including aggravated damages or compensation which are by nature compensatory assuming that she established breach of confidence and/or breach of duty under the Act against the defendants.

8

It was pleaded on the defendant's behalf that if and to the extent that the information published was confidential, its publication "was legitimate in that the public interest in favour of publication outweighed any public interest in the protection" of Miss Naomi Campbell's rights of confidentiality.

9

It was contended on the Mirror's behalf that she was an internationally famous super model "so-well known as to be recognised immediately by appearance and name by a high proportion of the general public" and well-known for her commercial ventures and as a figurehead for charitable causes. She had not only been "for many years the subject of extensive media attention and coverage relating to her private and personal life, activities and conduct" but also she had courted such attention and coverage including voluntarily disclosing otherwise inaccessible details about her private and personal life and feelings. Although she had discussed with the media that she had undergone therapy for behavioural problems and anger management, she had falsely and publicly asserted that she had not fallen prey to drug abuse thereby misleading the public.

The Articles Complained of

Thursday 1st February 2001.

10

On the front page between two colour photographs of Miss Naomi Campbell, the one dressed ordinarily in a baseball cap and windcheater with the caption below "Therapy: Naomi outside Meeting" and the other glamorously partially covered with what appeared to be strings of beads, was the headline "Naomi: I am a drug addict". The articles written by Polly Graham, who did not give evidence, were marked "exclusive" and read:—

"SUPERMODEL Naomi Campbell is attending Narcotic Anonymous meetings in a courageous bid to beat her addiction to drink and drugs.

The 30 year-old has been a regular at counselling sessions for three months, often attending twice a day.

Dressed in jeans and baseball cap, she arrived at one of NA's lunchtime meetings this week. Hours later at a different venue she made a low-key entrance to a women only gathering of recovering addicts

Despite her £14 million fortune Naomi is treated as just another addict trying to put her life back together. A source close to her said last night "she wants to clean up her life for good" she went into modelling when she was very young and it is easy to be led astray. Drink and drugs are unfortunately widely available in the fashion world. But Naomi has realised she has a problem and has bravely vowed to do something about it. Everyone wishes her well"

Her spokeswoman at Elite Models declined to comment"

11

On pages 12 and 13 the article giving the full story appears with photographs under the headline "Naomi's finally trying to beat the demons that have been haunting her". The central photograph shows Miss Naomi Campbell leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting although the caption below erroneously states "Hugs: Naomi, dressed in jeans and baseball hat, arrives for a lunchtime group meeting this week". The picture was taken by Frank Doran, a freelance photographer who was specifically engaged for the job by the Mirror. Mr Doran did not give evidence. The faces of at least two people are pixillated. Thus their anonymity is preserved and their possible drug addiction not revealed.

12

The article which addressed the story sympathetically as was intended and promised included the following passages:—

"In our picture the catwalk queen emerges from a gruelling two-hour session at Narcotics Anonymous and gives a friend a loving hug.

This is one of the world's most beautiful woman facing up to her drink and drugs addiction—and clearly winning.

The London-born supermodel has been going to NA meetings for the past three months as she tries to change her wild lifestyle.

Such is her commitment to conquering her problem that she regularly goes twice a day to group counselling"

"To the rest of the group she is simply Naomi, the addict. Not the supermodel. Not the style icon

The organisation encourages addicts to stay away not just from drugs but also from alcohol and even cigarettes as a part of a 12 step plan to recovery.

They take it one day at a time, starting with the acceptance that there is a problem".

Her courageous decision to deal with her problem shows that the girl they call Babywoman is finally growing up

"Something had to give, and thank God it was the drugs and partying," says Naomi's friend, She's still fragile, but she's getting healthy."

"Naomi has been scared by what's happened to people around her," adds her friend

"Flavio has coaxed her into making the right decision. It could have all ended so differently."

13

These excerpts acknowledge the seriousness of Miss Naomi Campbell's commitment to therapy but the fragility of her state of recovery. They also acknowledge as the photographs do her attendance at therapy sessions with "a low key entrance" as an ordinary private person. The article states mistakenly that she had been going to NA meetings for the last three months. She had been going to NA described as "gruelling" for about two years in the U.K. and abroad: a fact never before revealed in the media: an indication of the private nature of her therapy.

The Genesis of the 1st February Articles.

14

In my judgment Polly Graham's source was undoubtedly either a fellow sufferer attending N.A. meetings or a member of Miss Naomi Campbell's staff or entourage. The actual source is unknown but the journalist's cryptic notes have been disclosed. They read "Worlds End" "2.p.m." "Woman's meeting tonight in Fulham" "bookshop" Earls' Court 7.30 p.m.. "Brompton S.W.8. 7.30".

15

Evidence was given by Miss Carole White, the Managing Director of Premier Model Agency, Miss Naomi Campbell's London model agent, and Mr Piers Morgan, the Editor of the Mirror, about telephone conversations during the evening of Wednesday 31st January 2001. There was a clear conflict of recollection as to what was said. Miss White impressed me as a witness and I found her evidence about the telephone conversations both honest and essentially accurate. Mr Morgan's account of this aspect of the case I reject where it differed from Miss White's

16

However, I do accept as entirely genuine Mr Morgan's explanation as to the approach to the story in the Article. In his written statement he said:—

"Conscious of the terms of the PCC Code of Conduct, I considered carefully whether there was a public interest in the publication of the fact that Ms Campbell had a drug problem and had sought to deal with it. I thought there were two main reasons why publication was justified. (i) It appeared that Naomi Campbell had been committing a serious criminal offence by possessing and using a Class A drug over a period of years. (ii) As a role model to young people, she had held herself out in the media as someone who had managed to remain immune from the use of drugs in an industry where drug abuse was notoriously common. She had thus seriously misled the public. (iii) She had frequently made references to her private life in many interviews with the media.

There were two ways I thought The Mirror could approach the story. The first was to...

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