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  1. Media Law
September 25, 2012

Carina Trimingham to appeal Mail harassment and privacy case defeat

By PA Media Lawyer

MP Chris Huhne's partner Carina Trimingham has won permission for an appeal against a High Court's judge's rejection of her privacy and harassment claim against Associated Newspapers.

Her lawyer, Charlotte Harris, a partner with law firm Mishcon de Reya, confirmed that Lord Justice Laws had given permission for the appeal. The case is expected to be heard between November and next March.

Trimingham sued Associated Newspapers over a series of 65 stories in the Daily Mail, claiming they amounted a breach of her right to privacy and harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act.

Her affair with Mr Huhne, the former secretary of state for energy and climate change became public in June 2010, and he left his wife of 26 years. Trimingham, a 44-year-old PR adviser, sought compensation and an injunction over the 65 "highly unpleasant and hurtful" articles which had appeared since then.

Her lawyers told Mr Justice Tugendhat at the High Court that the Daily Mail's articles constituted a "cataclysmic interference" with her private life. But Associated Newspapers argued that there was an important public interest in the stories.

Mr Justice Tugendhat rejected Ms Trimingham's claim, saying she was not the "purely private figure she claims to be", and that her "reasonable expectation of privacy has become limited" because of both her relationship with Mr Huhne and what she herself had disclosed in the past. Ms Trimingham is appealing on a number of grounds.

It is claimed that Mr Justice Tugendhat failed properly to interpret numerous references in the stories to Ms Trimingham's sexuality as pejorative, was mistaken in concluding that such references would not have distressed her, and wrongly emphasised the issue of whether she was a robust character in the context of her dealings with the press and media. It is also claimed that the judge erred by appearing to take the view that someone who was not the main subject of a newspaper article could not claim to have been targeted by the reporting.

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On the issue of the claim for misuse of private information, it is argued that the judge was wrong to hold that Ms Trimingham was not herself a private individual because of her work and relationship with Mr Huhne. It is argued that his judgment appears to suggest that anyone who works in contact with the media, public figures or political campaigns cannot be regarded as private individual even if he or she is effectively unknown to the public, has no personal public profile, and has deliberately chosen to remain in the background. It is also argued that the judge confused Mr Huhne's status as a public figure with Ms Trimingham's position, and that his public status should not have reduced her right to privacy in relation to her sexual past, which was unrelated to her relationship with him.

Mr Justice Tugendhat is also said to have been mistaken in dealing with the issue of whether Ms Trimingham had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to her private information, and whether there was nonetheless a sufficient public interest to justify its publication.

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