UK & World News
Huhne's Girlfriend Loses Privacy Action
Chris Huhne's partner has lost her harassment case against Associated Newspapers and been ordered to pay £250,000 in costs within a fortnight.
The High Court rejected Carina Trimingham's claim that a series of articles in the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday amounted to a "cataclysmic interference" into her private life.
The PR adviser had sued for compensation and an injunction over 65 "highly unpleasant and hurtful" stories about her relationship with the former energy secretary.
Mr Huhne started an affair with Ms Trimingham, 44, who had previously been in a civil partnership with a woman, when he was still married and then left his wife of 26 years for her in June 2010.
His marriage break-up sparked a bitter feud with his ex-wife Vicky Pryce, which has led to them both being charged with perversion of the course of justice over speeding points.
Articles in the two titles referred to the "life and very different loves of the PR girl in Doc Martens", a "comedy lesbian from central casting" and a "rugby prop forward".
Ms Trimingham's counsel, Matthew Ryder QC, had argued that the Mail had a right to freedom of expression but not to abuse his client repeatedly.
He told the High Court the articles had made constant and gratuitous references to Ms Trimingham's sexuality and her previous relationship with another woman.
But Associated Newspapers said the stories were valid because there was an important public interest in Mr Huhne and the "after-shocks" of his marriage split.
Anthony White QC, for the publishers, said Ms Trimingham was "not a shrinking violet but a seasoned political journalist".
"She is open about her sexuality and, perhaps most tellingly, she has sold stories about other people's sex lives to the press. She gives as good as she gets, she dishes it out," he said.
During the trial, the PR expert broke down when she gave evidence about the coverage and its effect on her life.
But Judge Tugendhat, in a ruling that was immediately seen as a victory for free speech, rejected her claim on the basis that she could not expect her life to be entirely private.
He said: "Ms Trimingham was not the purely private figure she claims to be. Her reasonable expectation of privacy has become limited.
"This is mainly by reason of her involvement with Mr Huhne, both professionally, as his press agent, and personally as his secret mistress, in circumstances where he campaigned with a leaflet to the electorate of Eastleigh about how much he valued his family.
"It is also by reason of what she herself has disclosed in the past. Further, she was, as the defendant knew, a journalist who had herself disclosed information about other people for publication in the newspapers and so was a person who ought not reasonably to be expected to be distressed when such information was published about herself."
He added: "Ms Trimingham has shown little sign of recognising how what she herself has done has given rise to the publicity she finds so unwelcome. The difficult situation she found herself in was of her own making."
Ms Trimingham was in court for the ruling and did not show any emotion when it was announced but she later delivered a statement expressing her disappointment and vowing to appeal.
"I am extremely disappointed by this judgment. There is a ray of light, however. Thankfully, the court has accepted today that repeated mocking of a person by a national newspaper by reference to their sexual orientation would almost inevitably be so oppressive as to amount to harassment.
"However, the court did not appreciate that when newspapers make repeated irrelevant references to sexuality - particularly in the context of pejorative and stereotypical references to appearance - it amounts to the same type of mocking which the court has confirmed is unacceptable.
"This is confused, and I think wrong. I am very concerned that this judgment may become a blueprint for bullies and bigots. I intend to appeal."
Mail columnist Andrew Pierce said: "The judge made the point that she had effectively brought this on herself and I am relieved that the judge hasn't accepted that this was a harassment because that would have fundamentally affected how not just newspapers but broadcasters do their job."
A spokesman for Associated Newspapers added: "This was an important example of the press exercising its right to free speech in relation to matters of significant public interest.
"The references to Miss Trimingham's sexuality in our coverage were never pejorative, private or in any way homophobic.
"Miss Trimingham chose to level some very serious charges against our journalists in this case. This judgment vindicates both our journalists and their journalism."