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A wronged husband bent on revenge who threatened to reveal the identity of his wife's celebrity lover on the internet has been barred from doing so. An interim injunction has been served on human rights grounds.

In a case which could have serious repercussions for online and offline media law the High Court has ruled that the wife of the celebrity adulterer should be protected from the publication of the details of the affair.

The identities of all parties have been kept secret. The husband was referred to as AB, the celebrity adulterer, believed to be a figure from the world of sport, as CC.

Justice Eady ruled that the privacy rights of CC's wife under the European Convention of Human Rights would be infringed by AB's revelations about their affair.

"In personal and sexual relationships the courts have for some time recognised that there is what is now generally referred to as a reasonable or legitimate 'expectation of privacy'," said Eady in his ruling.

The case involved a balancing of competing EHCR rights, said Eady: that of CC's wife to privacy and that of AB to freedom of expression. Eady said that he had to make sure that his judgments were free of personal moral bias.

"It is not for judges when applying the European Convention, which is a secular code applying to those of all religions and none, to give an appearance of sanctimony by damning adulterers or seeking, as I was invited to do by Mr Bartley Jones, to 'vindicate' the state of matrimony," he said.

In assessing the free speech rights of AB, Eady said that not all speech was of equal value and due equal protection. "The communication of material to the world at large in which there is a genuine public interest is naturally to be rated more highly than the right to sell what is mere 'tittle-tattle'," he said.

Eady was particularly concerned with the effects that any publicity would have on CC's wife. She was said to be suffering stress and anxiety which requires medical attention and the court heard that she had talked of committing suicide.

"If I come to the conclusion that, in order to protect [CC's family life], it is necessary to prevent the Defendant going directly or indirectly to the media for no better reason than spite, money-making or 'tittle tattle', then I would be obliged to restrain him. The fact that he may be, or may see himself as, an 'injured party' does not accord him a special status, not given to others, which inherently raises the value of the communications he wishes to make to the tabloids on to some higher plane or renders them more valuable in Article 10 terms," said Eady.

The court issued a temporary injunction stopping AB from communicating with the media directly or indirectly or publishing on the internet any details of the affair.

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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