Lord Falconer Backs Justice Eady

From the Press Gazette:

A High Court judge accused by Paul Dacre of bringing in a privacy law by the back door was defended today by Lord Falconer, the former constitutional affairs secretary.

Daily Mail editor Dacre has accused Mr Justice Eady of using the Human Rights Act to curb the Press’s freedom to expose the moral shortcomings of those in high places.

…But Lord Falconer, who left the Cabinet when Gordon Brown took over as prime minister, said: “I think society now puts a value on privacy. There are certain things in life that should be private,” he told Today.

“For example, if I am a singer or an actor and I have a miscarriage, is that something that people should know about in the world?

“Of course, if I’m acting hypocritically or I’m accountable, or there’s something that may affect what I do in my public life which emerges from my private life, that should be published.

“But there are things which are private and just as we don’t want the state to know everything about us, do we want things that are legitimately private to be made public? I don’t think we do.”

The background to this the “Max Mosley case”; Mosley, who heads Formula One racing, was photographed some months ago cavorting with prostitutes in an S&M scenario; the News of the World alleged, but was unable to prove, that there had been “Nazi” overtones, which was interesting for psychoanalyists as Mosley is the son of 1930s British fascist leader Oswald Mosley. Mosley successfully sued under privacy legislation, and was awarded £60,000 – more money than most people earn over several years. He’s now planning a libel action based on the “Nazi” accusation, claiming that in fact he was merely indulging in “German prison” roleplay.

Dacre’s attack on Eady was forthright, but also laced with pomposity:

But what is most worrying about Justice Eady’s decision is that he is ruling that – when it comes to morality – the law in Britain is now effectively neutral, which is why I accuse him, in his judgments, of being “amoral”.  

In the sporting celebrity case, he rejected the idea that adultery was a proper cause for public condemnation.

Instead, he declared that because family breakdown was now commonplace, there was a strong argument for “not holding forth about adultery” or, in other words, attaching no greater inherent worth to marriage than to any other lifestyle choice.

…Since time immemorial public shaming has been a vital element in defending the parameters of what are considered acceptable standards of social behaviour, helping ensure that citizens – rich and poor – adhere to them for the good of the greater community.  For hundreds of years, the press has played a role in that process.  It has the freedom to identify those who have offended public standards of decency – the very standards its readers believe in – and hold the transgressors up to public condemnation.  If their readers don’t agree with the defence of such values, they would not buy those papers in such huge numbers.

The idea of British tabloids “defending the parameters of what are considered acceptable standards of social behaviour” seems to me both laughable and sinister; however, I’m not keen on the likes of Justice Eady and Lord Falconer deciding what I shouldn’t be allowed to know about, either.

Dacre’s speech echoes an attack made by former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey in July, which I blogged here. As Dacre notes, Eady is also responisble for a judgement in favour of a Saudi billionaire which has led to the US passing a law rejecting “libel tourism”.

I also wrote more about the subject of privacy and free speech here, noting some interesting hypothetical examples raised by (cough) UK right-libertarian Sean Gabb.

One Response

  1. […] in contrast we all know that some newspapers are motivated by a punitive spirit – just yesterday I blogged on Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre’s claim that Since time immemorial public shaming […]

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