chapter  19
12 Pages

THE PROTECTION OF PRIVACY

There is no single long-standing nominate tort designed to protect privacy. In 1972, long before the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998, the Younger Committee considered the protection of privacy. The Committee regarded the broadest interpretation of privacy as the state of being left alone, free from any kind of human interference. However, the Committee also identified elements within that definition which it considered to be of equal importance – protection from physical harm and restraint, freedom from direction and the peaceful enjoyment of one’s surroundings. There are several ways in which these aspects of the privacy of individuals may be protected by the law of tort. For example, the torts of nuisance and trespass protect various aspects of privacy in relation to land, trespass to the person protects from bodily interference, and defamation protects individuals from having untrue details of their lives made public. The Committee concluded that if the concept of privacy were to be embodied into a right:

By 1990, the Calcutt Committee on Privacy and Related Matters attempted to define a possible statutory tort of infringement of privacy relating specifically to the publication of personal information – which they defined broadly to include:

Predictably, the report went on to document a range of defences. What is considered in this chapter is the scope of the law of tort in the protection of

privacy since the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998. The law in this area is changing rapidly, partly because of the development of new technology which brings with it new ways of holding and communicating information, and the legal rules are also hedged about by codes of professional ethics, common law, statutory exceptions and the law on Data Protection and Official Secrets.