Northern Ireland

Van Morrison wins injunction against News of the World

Van Morrison
Image caption Van Morrison stated he had made considerable efforts to protect his private life

The Belfast-born singer Van Morrison has secured a court injunction banning the publication of a newspaper article about his private life.

Belfast High Court also granted the singer's application to stop the News of the World printing photos of him, his home and businesswoman Gigi Lee.

The judge ruled the article and photographs went "beyond the margin or appreciation allowed to a free press".

He described them as an "unacceptable intrusion".

However, Mr Justice Gillen declined to impose a so-called super injunction in the case, because the terms applied for by the plantiffs were too wide.

The article in question included details about Mr Morrison's home, its value, layout and furnishing, together with the input into its management by Ms Lee.

It also referred to staff residing there, physical descriptions of a child involved in the case, and visits made to the home.

'Private affairs'

In an affidavit, submitted to a private hearing at the High Court in Belfast on Friday, the 65-year-old singer stressed that he gave no authority for anyone to publish the information or photographs obtained by the paper.

He insisted that although he performed in public, he regarded his private life and personal relationships as an area to be kept away from scrutiny or comment.

Mr Morrison stated: "I have made considerable efforts to protect my private life and I have refused to be interviewed about it, to comment on it publicly or to authorise others to do so, save in very limited circumstances when a bare minimum of information is required to prevent or minimise harm from the repeated attempts of others to publish allegations about my private life."

During the hearing, a News of the World reporter contended that the article did not detail private or intimate particulars of any relationship between the plaintiffs, and claimed that it amounted to a very low level of intrusiveness.

But Mr Justice Gillen said the article and photographs constituted "an unacceptable intrusion into the private lives of these plaintiffs".

Ruling on the application, he said he had come to the conclusion that the public did not have a legitimate interest in knowing the private affairs of Mr Morrison or Ms Lee, where they lived or behaved in private, however well known they were.

'Freedom of expression'

"Whilst it may well be that a particular readership may have an interest - prurient or otherwise - in certain aspects of the lives of celebrities... this is not the same as saying that these are matters of public interest," he said.

The judge said the value of Mr Morrison's home, its location, the work carried out on it at the behest of Ms Lee, detailed descriptions of furnishings and decorations, guests to the house, the delivery of food, and the state of his marriage were all "classic illustrations" of intrusion into their private lives.

He added: "I am not presently minded to grant a super injunction against persons unnamed in the terms sought by the plaintiffs concerning the private lives or relationships of the plaintiffs in general. This is too wide an ambit."

However, the judge stressed that context was everything and the rights of the press must be "jealously guarded and looked at in each individual case".

He also acknowledged that more compelling circumstances could conceivably arise in future where a court might determine freedom of expression outstripped the right to privacy.

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