United Kingdom: Court of Appeal rules on the expectation of privacy in public

Ass. iur. Gianna Iacino

On 20 November 2015, in the case Weller and Ors v. Associated Newspaper Ltd ([2015] EWCA Civ 1179 – Case No.: A2/2014/2190) the England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) held that children have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they are on a family shopping trip.

The British musician Paul Weller went shopping with his three children in Los Angeles (California, USA). Seven photographs were taken of his children, without his consent. At the time, the oldest child was 16 years old and the younger twins were 10 month old. The pictures were published on Mail Online – the online presence of a British tabloid newspaper – and showed the children’s unpixellated faces.


The Court of first Instance awarded the three children together £ 10.000 (approx. € 13.500) for the misuse of private information. The defendant appealed against the decision, arguing that the English Law does not know an image right and that the plaintiffs could not have had a reasonable expectation of privacy when shopping in a public street.


However, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Court of First Instance and decided that the plaintiffs did, in fact, have a reasonable expectation of privacy while shopping in public. The Court had to balance the defendants right to freedom of expression according to art. 10 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the plaintiffs right to privacy according to article 8 ECHR. When balancing the different interests, the Court decided that the welfare of children was a primary concern and that it made no difference that the children’s father was a celebrity. Even though, the plaintiffs had been in public when the pictures were taken, the children were engaged in a family activity at the time and therefore, had a reasonable expectation of privacy, according to the Court of Appeal.

Ass. iur. Gianna Iacino, LL.M., is a Research Associate at the Institute for European Media Law (EMR), Saarbrücken/Brüssel.

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The judgment is available in English language here