The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

Sir, I arrived before the short adjournment at the subject of kiss and tell stories and chequebook journalism, the trademark feature of tabloid press, one might say.

A number of the core participant victims will give evidence about their experiences. Mr Flitcroft is one such person, Garry Flitcroft. A name most of those listening to this speech, even football supporters, might have to scratch their heads about for a moment. Indeed, I'm sure he won't mind me saying that he's probably better known for his appearances in legal textbooks than he is on his appearances on the football pitch, that is to all but die-hard Blackburn Rovers fans. He was the person, you recall, who put the A into A v B plc. Probably the first kiss and tell injunction to be decided by the English court following the introduction of the Human Rights Act.

In one sense, his story is quite simple. That is how no doubt the points would like to present it. He obtained an injunction from a first instance judge in 2001 to prevent the publication of details of an affair, an injunction which was later overturned by the Court of Appeal in early 2002, with Lord Woolf delivering the leading judgment, a judgment which has certainly been much vaunted by the press over the years since it blurred the distinction I mentioned between what is truly in the public interest with what the public are interested in, the Court of Appeal in 2002 deciding that there was some legitimate interest in the general public knowing the details of A's sex life since, as a professional footballer, he was supposedly a role model.

Far be it for me to criticise Lord Woolf, but it is a judgment which is now widely accepted would be decided differently today, even, I suspect, with the first instance decision in the Rio Ferdinand case which, as you've heard, is on its way to appeal.

For those who are interested in such things, you should read the judgment of the later Court of Appeal in the case of Loreena McKennitt v Niema Ash, probably one of the leading statements of domestic law on privacy in which the English court finally resolved the tension between the decision in A v B on the one hand and the Strasbourg definition of Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which are now incorporated into United Kingdom law, on the other hand. Resolved of course, as we know, in favour of the decisions of Europe.

There is perhaps no surprise about this. It's been a ruling not just of the Court of Appeal but the House of Lords as well, since this was the inevitable and indisputable consequence of introducing the European Convention of Human Rights into United Kingdom law, and before the anti-Europe brigade start to sound off, the press cannot have it both ways. The freedom of speech which they rely on is given to them by virtue of Article 10 of the very same Convention as Article 8.

The fact that the Court of Appeal would almost certainly have decided this case in favour of Mr Flitcroft now is little consolation, I suspect. Similarly, the fact that Mr Mosley won his case in front of the High Court, but only after the material was already published. But behind Mr Flitcroft's legal case, there is a real story about a real person and the impact which this kind of journalism can have, something which as lawyers we rarely think about, but this Inquiry needs to consider.

Mr Flitcroft will explain that whether the law was right or wrong, the impact on him, as on others caught up in such stories, was enormous. Following the very public humiliation of him and the feeding frenzy in the media when his name was finally revealed, with his anonymity as just "A" being lifted amongst further newspaper speculation as to his identity, his family was ripped apart.

You may feel very sorry for him personally about that, or you may not. His main concern, however, is his family. He told his wife about the affair before the injunction was lifted. You might say he was forced to. But any chance they had of dealing with the problems which this caused was shattered, however, by the humiliation which they had to endure so publicly, both of them. Journalists were camped outside his door, news helicopters were flying over his house, tracking down his family wherever they went. In the full glare of the media spotlight, it is no wonder that they had absolutely no chance of dealing with a situation which those not in the public domain have the chance to sort out in private, as such things should be.

He will tell you about the teasing, the gossip which his children had to suffer at school. He will tell you about the barrage of relentless and hounding publicity, publicity which caused his father-in-law, who was suffering from Parkinson's disease, enormous distress. The publicity was so bad that his own father, who had come to watch him play football from the age of 7, had to stop going to see him because of the abuse that he received. How his depression had worsened and he later committed suicide. Uncomfortable perhaps for the press to listen to? Well then, good, because these are the stories behind the headlines, headlines which come and go like yesterday's chip paper, but the damage which they can do to real people, whatever their profession, goes on and on.

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