Saturday 25 February 2017

Partner of Twink's estranged husband loses privacy case

Tim Healy

THE partner of Twink's estranged husband yesterday lost a case alleging defamation and breach of privacy against a newspaper.

Ruth Hickey (36) had sued the 'Sunday World' after it published photos and articles about her and her newborn child.

The material was published after she, her baby son, and Adele 'Twink' King's husband David Agnew were photographed leaving the births registration office in Dublin on May 10, 2006.

Ms Hickey, of Archer's Wood, Castaheany, Dublin 15, claimed the repetition by the newspaper in two subsequent articles of words used in a voicemail message to her and in a scrapped interview by singer and actress Twink meant that she was branded a prostitute and her son a bastard.

Yesterday, High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns rejected Ms Hickey's claims of a breach of privacy and defamation but said he felt compelled to state that the articles by the 'Sunday World' about her "represented the lowest standards of journalism imaginable".

He added: "It is a regrettable fact of life that such material sells newspapers."

Mr Justice Kearns said he was making these remarks in the context of an application for costs on the matter which he would deal with in a week.

The judge also said the issue of privacy versus freedom of expression should be a matter for new legislation.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Kearns concluded that the publication of photos of the family leaving the registry office was not a breach of privacy because they were taken in a public place when they were performing a routine public function.

The photos, the judge said, did not disclose anything that could not have been seen by anyone else who turned up at the registry office at the relevant time. He also said no evidence was given to establish Ms Hickey's contention that a campaign of surveillance had been carried out by the paper.

The baby's face was not recognisable in the photo and the child could not have suffered any hurt or humiliation from any aspect of the two articles, given his age at the time.

Voicemail

The judge also said Ms Hickey spoke to journalist PJ Gibbons of 'Social and Personal' magazine with the specific intention of getting publicity for matters "in respect of which she now seeks to claim privacy".

The voicemail message in which Twink used the offensive words about Ms Hickey and her child had already been posted on the internet and in the public domain, the judge said.

"I am satisfied (Ms Hickey) has herself actively sought publicity from the press and media concerning her partnership with Mr Agnew and the birth of their child," the judge said.

He also said he could not see anything in the case which outweighed the newspaper's right to freedom of expression.

A finding in favour of Ms Hickey might give rise to a situation where a newspaper might feel inhibited from publishing a photograph of any public person attending, for example, a funeral or entering a court building or polling station, he said.

On the question of defamation, Mr Justice Kearns said the first article, published in May 2006, in which the word "whore" was used, the context was clear.

It was the reported speech of Adele King (Twink) who was plainly extremely angry at the affair between her husband and Ms Hickey, the judge said.

Irish Independent

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