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    Friday, 5 October 2007

    McKennitt v Ash: the sequel proves a damp squib

    The litigation between Niema Ash and Loreena McKennitt has finally ended in a settlement, after Ms Ash agreed to forego publication of a second version of her book, Travels with Loreena McKennitt: My Life as a Friend (1). This second version had been intended to take account of her failure to persuade the courts to permit publication of the first version, but it too garnered objection from her subject. The first dispute ended earlier this year when the House of Lords rejected Ash's application to appeal the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

    Commenting on today's events and the dispute more broadly, Greenslade has perceived "a dramatic landmark as far as press freedom in general is concerned". With shades of Spycatcher, he notes that "all the bits that upset McKennitt have already been published in Canada and the United States. As so often, it is British courts that have been overly restrictive". This is important. If we are talking about breach of confidence, then when the story is out, its out. However, if we are talking about protecting privacy directly then - if its accepted that there is an intrusion in a given case, which Greenslade contests as regards this instance - there probably is some merit in seeking to limit the extent of the harm caused. Perhaps, this is an irregularity that is borne of how our courts have developed the law in this area, and one that might best be resolved by legislative intervention.

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