Thursday, 3 December 2009

Privacy v. free speech: judge Sir David Eady's views

Judge Sir David Eady has decided most of the UK privacy cases in the last decade, as Lorna Brazell of UK IP law firm Bird & Bird (I love their URL!) noted in a recent article for the Society for Computers & Law journal.

As Ms Brazell also pointed out, while assigning the same judge to hear all UK privacy cases may lead to greater legal certainty, the downside is that this means that UK laws on privacy have been, and still are being, shaped by one person's personal and subjective feel - rather than being subject to wider discussion.

But it is what it is, court cases are allocated in whatever way they see fit. If you're interested in UK privacy law, and especially if you're litigating privacy issues in the UK, you can't afford not to pay careful heed to Sir David Eady's views.

Sir David recently made a speech at the JUSTICE 1 December 2009 conference Free speech v privacy - assessing the latest developments in media law & human rights. [Edit] Here is the text of the speech in full: "Privacy and the press: Where are we now?"

This speech has been picked up, with slightly different slants, e.g. by:

Media lawyer Mark Stephens was also quoted in the Guardian article as saying:

"The problem is that the common law is meant to be a commonality of judicial voices," said Stephens. "There is a system flaw in that we have historically concentrated libel and now privacy law into the hands of only a handful of judges – because of the dearth of cases that has meant we have effectively had Eady doing them full-time.

"I don't necessarily think Eady has been wrong, but having one person responsible for a whole area of judicial output is unhealthy – it is likely to cause difficulties in any area of law."

It is also worth reading other speeches by Sir David which don't seem to have been reported as widely as his JUSTICE speech (so the Guardian wasn't quite right to say that his December speech was his first since last year). Here are the links:

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