Flash Flood or Slow Burn?: Celebrities, Photographers and the Protection from Harassment Act
30 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2009
Date Written: June, 11 2009
In recent months, a number of female celebrities have been awarded court orders under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to constrain the excessive behaviour of the paparazzi. This is a novel, but unsurprising, use of the statute. Indeed, what has been most startling in this development is the fact that the statutory cause of action has never formerly been deployed in this way. The aim of this paper is to assess why this has been the case. In doing so, it reflects upon opposing perspectives on the interaction between celebrities and the media; details the origins of the 1997 Act, its requirements, and their application to the newsgathering context; reviews the jurisprudential forebears to the recent actions that suggested that the Act could be deployed in a newsgathering context come the appropriate case, and considers the operation, strengths, and putative weaknesses of alternative regulatory options (in particular, that offered in this respect by the Press Complaints Commission). The paper concludes by highlighting a combination of factors that may explain why the Act has been used only now, by musing on the ramifications for celebrities and the paparazzi, and by reflecting on the likely future interplay between the legal and regulatory avenues oriented towards combating the problem of harassment by photographers and other journalists.
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