Another Gray day for privacy

freespeech-1a.jpgTwo updates following on from my posts (here and here) about a Dublin family who moved to Ballybunion but were forced out when the Gardaí leaked to the local press that they had taken in their nephew who had just been released from prison after serving a sentence for rape.

First, a report of the judgment in the case is now available online at Gray v Minister for Justice [2007] IEHC 52 (17 January 2007).

Second, Daniel J Solove on Concurring Opinions has a fascinating post about liability for invasion of privacy in similar circumstances in the US: The Steven Hatfill Case, Law Enforcement Leaks, and Journalist Privilege. Some extracts:

It seems to happen way too often. Despite policies and laws that forbid law enforcement officials from mentioning the names of suspects who are not yet formally accused or even arrested, leaks invariably seem to happen. The leaks can wreak havoc in the lives of those whose names are mentioned. Many of these people wind up never being charged with any crime, yet their reputations are destroyed by the leaks and resulting media attention.

One example of this is Andrew Speaker, the TB patient whose name was apparently leaked by a law enforcement official and a “medical official” (presumably a medical official of the government). These officials probably committed tortious conduct — there is a good argument that the leaks might be violations of the breach of confidentiality tort. There is also a good argument that the leaks violated Speaker’s constitutional right to information privacy (for a discussion of this right, see my post here) and the Privacy Act (if they were federal officials).

Another example is Steven Hatfill, the so-called “person of interest” that government officials identified as involved in the Anthrax attacks. Hatfill’s reputation was annihilated when these leaks took place. He was never charged with any crime. Hatfill is now suing the federal government for the leaks. But one of the difficulties in suing is identifying the government officials who made the leaks. Hatfill is seeking the names of the officials from several journalists, who are claiming that the names are protected by journalist privilege. …

I previously blogged about my own normative views about when the journalist privilege should and should not protect against disclosure here and here. Basically, I argued that the privilege should protect against disclosure when disclosure is in the public interest. In other words, there are leaks we want (government whisleblowing — Pentagon Papers) and leaks we don’t want (leaking Valerie Plame’s name as a CIA agent).

Read the full post here.

More on Hatfill here.

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