Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s pursuit of a complaint against six people for the publication of topless photos of the Duchess in a French magazineprivacy has brought into sharp focus the contrast in French and English privacy laws.

French privacy laws have been derided for years for protecting the interests of the rich and powerful. The former French President, Francois Mitterrand, had a love child whose existence was kept from the public gaze for decades.

His outgoing successor, Francois Hollande, likewise was able to avoid the outpouring of bile that he would have received in Britain if his colourful private life had been that of a British politician.

In Britain, our feral tabloid press publishes the most prurient of stories with often little disregard for the truth. In a free society, we are told, the untrammelled freedom of the press is more important that the rights of those whose lives the press can so easily destroy.

It is harder than ever before to sue the press in defamation. Proving “serious harm”, as is now required under the Defamation Act 2013, is notoriously difficult.

Often, complainants might do better to use anti-harassment laws to protect themselves against those who are trying to destroy their reputations, livelihoods and finances but even those laws are not infallible.

English law has been slow to recognise the need to protect individuals’ rights to privacy but things are slowly beginning to change.

The much-derided European Convention on Human Rights protects a citizen’s right to respect for his or her private and family life (and nothing will change in this regard because of Brexit).

While this right to privacy, incorporated into English law by the Human Rights Act 1998, is not as wide-ranging as its equivalent in France and elsewhere on the European continent, English law’s right to privacy is a tool that is all too often readily ignored by those whose name has been destroyed by personal or business enemies or irresponsible journalism.

Google’s weak application of the so-called “right to be forgotten” is a salutary warning to all of us. It takes years to earn a reputation. It takes minutes for that reputation to be lost. You need to act quickly to protect what you have built.

To learn how Griffin Law can protect your privacy, please contact Donal Blaney at for a free initial consultation. 

Article by Donal Blaney, Principal, Griffin Law