High Court grants without notice injunction in “revenge porn” case

James Johnson

The High Court has granted an interim non-disclosure order to prevent the publication of so-called “revenge porn”.  The applicant, a successful actor identified as JPH, had been in a relationship with XYZ.  During the course of the relationship a number of photographs and videos showing nudity and sexual activity had been taken and, following the end of the relationship, XYZ threatened to post the images on social media and cause them to be published in the press.

The threats to publish were made in the afternoon and early evening of Friday 9 October and the hearing was held on Saturday 10 October.  The application was made without notice to avoid disclosure occurring before the hearing could take place.  Although the application was without notice, the hearing itself was held in public as the anonymity of the parties was protected and the images referred to in such a way that the detail was not revealed.

The judge, Mr Justice Popplewell, had to balance JPH’s right to respect for his private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights against XYZ’s freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR.  On the facts, he held that there was no discernible public interest in publishing the images as they were of private and lawful behaviour and “there was nothing to suggest that the disclosure would contribute anything to a debate of general interest in a democratic society”.  As XYZ’s motives appeared to be revenge (and possibly blackmail), any argument for protecting XYZ’s freedom of expression carried little weight.

The judge considered that an order to prevent publication was required as it was likely that the images and videos would otherwise be widely disseminated, in particular on social media.  He also dispensed with the requirement for personal service of the order as service by email would bring it “swiftly to XYZ’s notice” and so was an appropriate method to avoid XYZ becoming aware of the application and order and publishing the images before effective service had taken place.

JPH v XYZ & Ors [2015] EWHC 2871 (QB)

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