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Appeals court rules for Naomi Campbell

Britain's high court reverses decision in privacy case
/ Source: The Associated Press

Supermodel Naomi Campbell won her appeal Thursday in her privacy case against a newspaper that published photographs of her leaving a drug counseling meeting.

Reversing a lower court decision, the Law Lords, Britain’s highest court, ruled 3-2 that the Daily Mirror invaded Campbell’s privacy. The lords also overturned an order requiring her to pay the newspaper’s legal costs, estimated at $630,000.

Campbell had asked the panel, which sits in the upper chamber of Parliament, to reverse an October 2002 ruling that the Daily Mirror was justified in publishing a picture of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting because Campbell had previously lied to the media about her drug use.

“Miss Campbell is delighted by today’s verdict,” said her lawyer, Keith Schilling. “This is not only a vindication for her personally, but more importantly it represents a real advancement for the rights of people to maintain important elements of their privacy, particularly when relating to therapy.”

Campbell was not present for the ruling.

Some feared the verdict would restrict press freedom by granting public figures an overly wide right to privacy.

“This is a very good day for lying, drug-abusing prima donnas who want to have their cake with the media, and the right to then shamelessly guzzle it with their Cristal champagne,” Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan said.

“If ever there was a less deserving case for creating what is effectively a backdoor privacy law, it would be Ms. Campbell, but that’s show biz,” he said.

Campbell had sued the Daily Mirror, claiming it had breached her right to confidentiality and invaded her privacy by running the February 2001 photos and a story that included details of her drug treatment. The model testified that she felt “shocked, angry, betrayed and violated” by the piece.

In April 2002 the High Court ruled in Campbell’s favor and ordered the paper to pay her legal costs and $6,300 in damages.

The decision was overturned on appeal six months later, and the Court of Appeal ordered the model to pay the newspaper’s legal costs, estimated at $630,000.

The lords’ ruling reinstates the original damages order.

Schilling said Campbell had never objected to the Daily Mirror’s reporting that she had a drug problem and had misled the media about it, but only to its publication of details of her treatment.

The judges who ruled in her favor agreed.

“People trying to recover from drug addiction need considerable dedication and commitment, along with constant reinforcement from those around them,” ruled Baroness Hale, a member of the panel. “Blundering in when matters are acknowledged to be at a fragile stage may do great harm.”