Jeremy Clarkson has discontinued his privacy action against his ex-wife, Alexandra Hall, leading to the discharge of an anonymised privacy injunction. As reported in the “Daily Mail” and the “Daily Telegraph” the injunction concerned a claim by Ms Hall that she had had an affair with Mr Clarkson after he had re-married. The injunction, granted by Edwards-Stuart J on 21 September 2010, was continued by Tugendhat J on 4 October 2010. The proceedings were anonymised as AMM v HXW ( EWHC 2457 (QB)). The judgment includes details of a previous report about the initial injunction in the “Daily Mail” under the headline “TV celebrity wins court order gagging his ex-wife“. Mr Clarkson had alleged that Ms Hall had been try to blackmail him by publicising the affair. We had a Case Comment about this case at the time.
An interesting and unusual feature of the Clarkson case is the fact that – as clear from the judgment () and today’s newspaper reports – that this was a “false privacy” case. Mr Clarkson denied that he had had such an affair but nevertheless sought and obtained an injunction to restrain publication of purported private information.
It is not clear how far Mr Clarkson’s action had progressed since October 2010 but the discontinuance means that he will be liable to pay all Ms Hall’s costs over the past 13 months.
Mr Clarkson’s motivation for discontinuance is unclear. Although blackmail was alleged at the original hearing it is not suggested that any report was made to the police. He explained his reasons to the “Daily Mail” as follows:
‘One, most importantly, injunctions don’t work. You take out an injunction against somebody or some organisation and immediately news of that injunction and the people involved and the story behind the injunction is in a legal-free world on Twitter and the internet. It’s pointless.
Secondly, you used to be able to take out an injunction and then just sit on it. But as a result of a recent court case you are now ultimately forced by the courts to go to trial – which is unbelievably expensive. If you win, news leaks out on the internet. If you lose, you then get raped by your opponent’s legal fees. I regretted doing it from the day I took the injunction out to this morning. There is also an assumption of guilt which goes hand in hand with an injunction”.
The first point is headlined by the “Daily Telegraph” – “Jeremy Clarkson: injunction ‘pointless’ after Twitter rumours” – although, somewhat curiously the rumours in question did not relate to Ms Hall at all to but to a false story concerning Mr Clarkson and Jemima Khan.
If, as was alleged when the injunction was obtained, this was a case of blackmail it might be thought that Mr Clarkson would be likely to be succeed at trial despite the “false privacy” element. These matters will not now be explored in court.
“But because I am bound by the same order, I can’t speak about it or defend myself. There is an assumption that I am guilty because I can’t say anything. My wife and I decided to let it go. My ex-wife is now free to tell her story and people can either believe it or not, it’s up to them“.
The “Daily Mail” draws attention to an interview given – anonymously – by Ms Hall to the Independent on Sunday in April 2011, published under the headline “Judges made me a ‘non-person’“.
It appears that no privacy injunctions have been granted over the past 5 months. It remains to be seen how many others granted in earlier years will ultimately be discharged.