The Supreme Court has refused Mirror Group permission to appeal against the phone hacking damages awards made by Mr Justice Mann in May 2015. This decision has far reaching implications for phone hacking cases and privacy law more generally.
In an order dated 22 March 2016, Lords Neuberger, Sumption and Hughes refused permission “because the application does not raise an arguable point of law“.
In his first instance judgment ( EWHC 1482 (Ch)) Mr Justice Mann considered the amount of compensation that should be paid to eight representative claimants who were victims of admitted phone hacking by Mirror Group Newspapers.
He rejected the submission that privacy damages were compensation only for distress and held that separate awards could be made for each invasion of privacy. He awarded damages of between £72,500 and £260,250 to the eight representative claimants, figures which were all higher than the highest previous privacy award. We had a post discussing the damages awards at the time.
Mirror Group was refused permission to appeal by the Court of Appeal and now by the Supreme Court. Mr Justice Mann’s analysis of the legal principles relating to privacy damages has been upheld and is binding in future cases.
The most obvious implication is for the phone hacking litigation itself. The damages awarded (or settlements reached) in the next phase of the Mirror Phone Hacking litigation, in which Atkins Thomson are the lead solicitors, will have to be based on Mr Justice Mann’s approach rather than the earlier case law. The same applies to the “Third Tranche” of the phone hacking litigation against the News of the World (and now the Sun) which is now before the courts.
More generally, Mr Justice Mann’s approach to the award of privacy damages will be the starting point for assessment in all future misuse of private information cases. Those damages are now likely to be much closer to the levels awarded in defamation cases.