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Spelman's son loses privacy case

The High Court has refused to continue a privacy injunction won by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman's teenage son Jonathan.

But the order continues until at least 4pm next Friday to give 17-year-old Mr Spelman, who is suing through his mother and father Mark, an opportunity to ask the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge Mr Justice Tugendhat's ruling.

Mr Spelman was granted the order preventing the publication of sensitive personal information in the Daily Star Sunday by Mr Justice Lindblom at a private hearing earlier this month.

The judge said the information, which was leaked to the newspaper, attracted a reasonable expectation of privacy and publication would not advance the public interest. But Mr Justice Tugendhat concluded that it was "not necessary or proportionate" to continue the injunction.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Tugendhat said that his decision not to continue the injunction until any trial - which would not be before May - was not a "licence" to Express Newspapers or anyone else to publish whatever they chose, or indeed anything at all.

He said: "It is simply a decision not to grant an injunction. If the defendant or anyone else does disclose private information about the claimant, then such disclosure may be the subject of a claim for damages, which may, in an appropriate case, include aggravated damages."

Contesting the injunction application, Christina Michalos, counsel for Express Newspapers, had said that the case was about "freedom of expression in its purest sense" and the court should not muzzle the "watchdog function of the press".

Mr Justice Tugendhat said Jonathan Spelman played rugby for England in the under-16 and other squads and for Harlequins, but had not played since being injured in a game last September.

He said the newspaper had not told the court what information it intended to disclose, but stated in its evidence that its story highlighted "the pressures on elite athletes from the very beginning of their sporting careers" and the facts of Mr Spelman's story "act as a warning".

The newspaper said the tip-off came from a member of the public unconnected to the Rugby Football Union, Mr Spelman's boarding school or Harlequins and it was not a breach of confidence or sourced from his "inside circle".

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