Bull v Desporte – no public interest in a “kiss and tell”

Posted: July 23, 2019

Donna Desporte wrote a book about her relationship with a lottery winner, Gareth Bull, and the High Court found that further publication would be a misuse of private information. The book revealed private information, including details of their sexual relationship, his relationship with his former wife, his children and his physical health. 

The judge considered that this was little more than a “kiss and tell” for which there was no legitimate public interest in publishing.  So further publication would contravene Mr Bull’s right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that outweighed Ms Desporte’s right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the ECHR.  In the circumstances, the judge granted a permanent injunction preventing further publication of the private information.

Additionally, following the initial publication of the book, an interim non-disclosure order had been granted preventing publication of the private information.  Ms Desporte subsequently published redacted versions of the book that still contained private information.  Since Ms Desporte had knowingly breached the order, the judge awarded aggravated damages.

We understand that the decision is the subject of an appeal by Ms. Desporte.

Comment

This decision follows a series of similar judgments, including McKennitt v Ash, Murray v Express Newspapers Limited, PJS v News Group Newspapers and  Contostavlos v Mendahun – suggesting, in particular, that there is very little prospect of succeeding with a freedom-of-expression argument for a publication of information that would amount to a mere “kiss and tell”.  Knowles J was firm in his judgment on those points and was clear that, in the circumstances, there was no justification on any public-interest grounds for the publication any of the four categories of private information identified.

The judge was equally robust in awarding damages – which serves as a pointed reminder that if an interim order is knowingly breached, a court may well award aggravated damages.

Peter Hopton, Associate, Simkins LLP

To read the full article, click here. Article written for Entertainment Law Review.