Defending Hollywood's A-list
He insists he’s not some sort of “maverick” who’s got an anti-press agenda. His firm has acted for publishing houses, newspapers and a surprising number of journalists.
In fact, while his high-profile clients garner the most attention, the largest group of plaintiffs he represents is “not celebrities, not property developers, not former bankers”, but journalists.
He has represented and continues to act for many senior journalists with leading newspapers, taking cases against other newspapers who have written about them, or against the National Union of Journalists. A number are also “getting hit” by online harassment.
While Tweed doesn’t condone using the law to deter genuine investigative journalism, he believes the press misbehaves in terms of how it treats ordinary individuals.
“To get access to justice for the ordinary man on the street is virtually impossible,” he says. “The press control the platform for free speech. They decide who gets free speech. It’s not this utopia that Americans try to claim they have,” he says. “If the ordinary man on the street is libelled on the front page of a newspaper, the best he can hope for is a postage stamp-sized apology or a rambling Press Ombudsman finding . . . that no one reads.”
He believes anything short of regulation is a waste of time. “I would have no problem going to an independent state body instead of issuing expensive libel proceedings.”
In relation to the recent Prince Harry furore, where The Sun ran photos of the young royal naked in a Las Vegas hotel, he says the tabloid was motivated purely by commercial interest, rather than public interest, and dismisses the justification that the photos were widely available on the internet. “You can get hardcore porn on the internet. That doesn’t mean you publish it.”
“Okay, it was foolish . . . but he had a reasonable expectation of privacy. It was a total breach of privacy. With his case, and Max Mosley’s case, the subject matter might be questionable, so the papers will have taken the view he’s not going to sue.” He says the principles that these types of high-profile cases establish are just as important for the ordinary man on Grafton Street.
“If you’re having a glass of wine, and somebody is recording you on an iPhone, you should have an expectation of privacy and confidentiality.”
Based on the cases landing on Tweed’s desk right now, he believes this whole area – the intrusion of privacy through the use of camera phones, social media etc – is going to be the battleground of 2013.