The pressure on free speech by the triple whammy of libel, privacy and injunctions should ease. Mr Justice Eady is retiring as the senior judge in the High Court of England and Wales hearing those types of cases.
Eady has given a string of decisions which have tightened privacy and opened the way for injunctions to stop publication. The injunctions are, in effect, pre-publication censorship.
McKennitt v Ash was a key privacy case in which Eady took the Human Rights Act 2000 and scoped out the limits of privacy.
The Act says: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”
Easy said: “There is a significant shift taking place between, on the one hand, freedom of expression and the interest of the public to receive information, and, on the other, expectations of citizens to have their private lives protected. The shift is towards privacy.”
That was a clear enough warning.
And so it came about in the Max Mosley case and a string of injunctions.
Eady will be replaced by Mr Justice Tugendhat who has shown a more liberal attitude than Eady in the few cases he has heard. As the lead judge Eady could allocate the cases in the court, keeping the big ones for himself. Now Tugendhat can allocate the cases.
Some will go to Mrs Justice Sharp who seems to have an equally liberal track record.
Don’t expect a great change in approach. Both Tugendhat and Sharp are interpreting the same statute law as Eady was. But there should be some easing of the pressure.