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Thaddeus Manu and Felipe Romero Moreno

Abstract

While freedom of expression has a long and well-established constitutional foundation as a self-governing concept, the right to privacy is a relatively recent norm in the constitutional orientation of the United Kingdom. Until the Human Rights Act 1998, the right to privacy had little standing constitutionally. Following on from this standard-setting, notably, both rights have taken on added importance in our modern technological society. Nevertheless, the formulation of privacy into a legal doctrine of human rights seems to have presented a fundamental tension in relation to freedom of expression. As a matter of legal logic, the courts, through a consideration of the law, examine the substantive legal issues in terms of a balancing process, whereby the interest in privacy is balanced against the interest in freedom of expression. It is a matter of broad principle for the courts to rely on injunctions as ancillary instruments of equity in doing justice in this field. Significantly, while the elementary norm of an injunction is that it commands an act that the court regards as an essential constituent to justice, unfortunately, many contend that judges have gone beyond this point, and this is shifting opinions. In fact, serious concerns have been frequently expressed about the extent to which the rich are easily able to invoke the discretion of the court to grant injunctions in a fashion that remains an antithesis to the principle of open justice and also undermines the exercise of freedom of speech. While this suspicion is not entirely new to matters of procedural law, the recent case, PJS v News Group Newspapers turned on this controversy. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to examine the complexity of celebrity privacy injunctions in the age of the internet and question its relevance, as we outline the extent to which social media is challenging the authority of the state (judiciary) in this direction.