Celebrities will continue to pursue legal action against paparazzi photographers until they are seen to have ‘cleaned up their act’, a leading media lawyer has warned.
The news follows an anti-harassment injunction that bans press photographers from following singer Amy Winehouse and gathering outside her house.
And it comes in the wake of a victory over photographers by actress Sienna Miller who last year won £53,000 in damages and costs in relation to a harassment and privacy claim against the celebrity photo agency Big Pictures.
Lawyer Jonathan Coad, from Swan Turton solicitors, told Amateur Photographer magazine: ‘The courts have – as always in this area – to balance two vital sets of rights [under the European Convention on Human Rights]; the Article 8 rights of the celebrity and the Article 10 rights of the photographer.’
Referring to paragraph 4 of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC)’s Code of Practice, he added: ‘The press has, however, accepted that photos should not be obtained by harassment or persistent pursuit.’
The press watchdog’s rules on ‘harassment’ add: ‘They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them.’
However, the PCC states that there may be exceptions to this rule when the actions of the photographer or journalist can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.
Coad added: ‘In one sense the courts are just enforcing the press’s own rules because the press itself will not abide by them. I think the photographers must expect more of this now, as it will be claimed that such legal action is necessary until they clean up their own act.’
The Winehouse injunction – reported by AP earlier this week – was described by Big Pictures agency boss Darryn Lyons as ‘extremely disappointing’.
The agency’s chief executive Alan Williams told the Guardian newspaper: ‘We believe in the right of a photographer to take pictures in a public place.’