As a Divorce Lawyer whose career has spanned over thirty years I have watched with interest as the argument of whether or not the right to private life should be protected versus the right of the public to know or the freedom of Press to report. The argument appears to be by the Press that by granting a man or woman a super injunction to keep details of their marital difficulties, affairs or problems private, is breaching the right of the Press to inform the public of the fact that the imagine being portrayed by the person seeking protection, is inaccurate.
The reality of the situation is, that having worked upon matrimonial cases for many years, issues concerning the parties should be a matter between the parties themselves and not for public consumption. The argument goes by the Press, that if a celebrity has used the Press to promote their career, that in turn it would appear that they have sold their soul to the Press to dissect every part of their private lives as a matter of inalienable right. Accordingly the Press are entitled to comment on their clothing, their expenditure, where they choose to live, how they choose to bring up their children, but more particularly how they conduct their personal lives even though it is private to them. I take the view that the persons’ private life is their own and simply because they choose to put their head above the parapet in that, their record, film or career is promoted by the media, does not as of right give the Press an entitlement to have every single personal detail thrust into the forefront of media attention.
Regrettably, it is a fact of life, that probably the best part of 75% of all married men are having affairs in this country as we speak. Some get caught, some don’t, some lead completely double lives, some have casual relationships. But it is entirely their own choice. Furthermore, if we were to assume as has been suggested recently that by having an affair a man is incapable of carrying out his job, this means that three quarters of the entire British Isles would come to a shuddering halt on a daily basis. Furthermore, France, Italy, Spain etc would be at an absolute standstill.
When a woman discovers that her husband has committed adultery or vice a versa, often they can agonise in front of me as to whether or not they wish their marriage to end. Trust issues clearly arise, some people depending on their background and self esteem can overcome this and stay with their partner and some can’t. This decision is a personal one and must be taken by the couple themselves. The media, do not simply want to have a right of freedom of expression to comment that someone has had an affair, they go much further than this and that is my objection and concern. The media are not content simply to report the issue but do then for the post part go on to turn the matter into a witch hunt. Accordingly, they will hound and hound the couple encouraging the wife that her husband has had affair to abandon him, and will criticise her if she chooses to consider remaining with the spouse if it is their view that the marriage should end. This is surely an extension of freedom of Press into “trial by media”.
One only has to look at the case of Wayne and Coleen Rooney to see that that is exactly what occurred. The argument ran from the media that there was a public interest in reporting these matters and that the sponsors were concerned that this wholesome family imagine had been dented. Who are they kidding? Wayne Rooney was given sponsorship as are so many footballers) not because he had a squeaky clean family imagine, but because he was good at football and by his popularity would boost sales. Tiger Woods, was given sponsorship because he was brilliant and continues to be brilliant at golf. It was the media who interlaid the image of the family man, it was the media who have interlaid the imagine of Ryan Giggs as a family man. The reality is that many sports personalities are ambitious, focused and can be very naughty. It is the media who build up, and the media who feel they have a right to crush.
A similar scenario arose in the case of Cheryl and Ashley Cole. The media again felt that there had to be trial by newspaper, tv and radio. The media felt that Cheryl should not remain with Ashley and if Cheryl had been given the space and understanding and not been caught in such media frenzy, it may well have been the case that she would not have divorced Ashley in the way and manner that she did. The fact is that celebrities are people like anyone else. Their egos may be fragile, or huge, but they are susceptible to distress and hardship in the same way as anyone else except that they have the added pressure of having to experience all of those emotions in the public glare.
If a celebrity wishes to protect their children from being bullied at school from the fact that one of their parents had extra marital relationship then why should the media take priority over the need to protect that child’s interest. The fact that their father or mother may have been entirely stupid, flawed or misguided, is a matter for the couple, and it should not be a matter for the Press to decide. Why should the Press be the arbiters of what is best for the child, what is best for the couple, when the decision contains within it an element of self interest, which is to sell newspapers by using sensational comments.
The media are whipping the public up yet again into a frenzy over the super injunction on the basis that the public should know and why should facts about adultery or other matters be hidden from public consumption. However, whilst I don’t believe that the public should ever be misled, nevertheless, there is a deeper and wider issue that is being overlooked in the frenzy to deal with the public’s right to know.
I do not believe that all super injunctions are correct or have been obtained for the right reasons but I do believe that this idiotic media frenzy surrounding celebrities personal lives, has now spiralled out of control and with the advent of social networking websites expressing every thought of the day, the issue becomes ever more complicated. Because celebrities are choosing to share their inner most thoughts and issues with the public, when do you then draw the line on the right to know?
It is my personal and passionate view that the individual has a right to reveal such information as they wish and that by so doing they do not forfeit entirely their right not to reveal items that they do not wish to be made public.
There surely must be a sensible public enquiry into this issue once and for all since to totally deny media freedom of expression would be wrong, yet to allow them to continue on unabated is also too intrusive and fundamentally wrong.
The above views are courtesy of Vanessa Lloyd Platt, a very prominent divorce solicitor in London.