Lady Archer 'obviously' entitled to gag order

The High Court decision that Mary Archer was entitled to an order gagging her former secretary from talking about life with the Archers focused on interactivity between articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and the criteria used by courts to decide whether a person is entitled to privacy.

In addition to the gag on her former personal assistant, Jane Williams, Archer also received £2,500

damages from Williams, for breach of confidence.

Mr Justice Jackson had been told that Williams had been a “trusted member of staff” who had been intimately acquainted with Archer’s work and home life, and that she had owed Archer a duty of confidence was “obvious” both prior to and following her dismissal in November 2001.

He also rejected claims that Williams, Archer’s assistant of 13 years, should be allowed to make the disclosures under the provisions of the Human Rights Act.

He said she was entitled to an injunction banning Williams from breaching the confidentiality she had agreed to in the terms of her employment as Archer’s secretary and personal assistant.

Ruling that Archer was entitled to the gagging order, he rejected claims that to impose an order would

breach Williams’s rights to freedom of expression.

He said that in cases such as this the freedom of expression rights had to be weighed against privacy rights and that in doing this it was necessary to look at the person involved.

He also emphasised the fact that Archer was not a public role model and said: “I have come to the conclusion the claimant is not a person who has, by her way of life or her activities, generated legitimate public interest in any of the matters the defendant is seeking to publicise.”

He said she was not a person whose professional and other activities had made her life a matter of “legitimate interest to the public”.

by Roger Pearson

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