Michael Schumacher Photos: A Gross Violation Of His Privacy Rights

Callum Galbraith discusses the privacy issues surrounding the recent photos of Michael Schumacher that have apparently been taken of him and which have subsequently been offered to the media.

The law has gone a long way since the Court of Appeal held in 1991 that there was no right to privacy in the UK which would prevent the publication of an interview given by ‘Allo ‘Allo star, Gorden Kaye, whilst suffering from a serious head injury in hospital. Today, it is inconceivable that the Court would make a similar finding given the Human Rights Act 1998. Furthermore, medical information and photographs relating to that are amongst the categories of information most fiercely protected by the Courts.

No photos whatsoever of Schumacher have been published since he sustained injuries whilst skiing in December 2013 and little information has been disclosed as to his medical condition. Schumacher’s representatives have highlighted that he fiercely guarded his privacy before his injuries and they have therefore sought to respect those wishes, despite knowing the understandable interest and concern as to his condition.

The UK media referred to the secret photos of Schumacher as being “ghoulish”, although it is understood that they have not seen them. It is hard to imagine any media outlet being prepared to publish such obviously private photos given the lengths taken to guard Schumacher’s privacy and lack of any legal justification for them being published. Indeed, it is telling that no publications have been prepared to purchase and publish the photographs and that they have universally reacted with outrage to them being hawked around by someone close to Schumacher.

It has however been reported that one media organisation is refusing to inform Schumacher’s aides as to who sought to sell them the photographs. In the UK, lawyers would no doubt consider applying (successfully I would suggest) for a Court order to obtain disclosure of that information so that they could take action against the individual in question or for an Order which prevented unknown persons from disseminating or communicating details of the information conveyed in the photographs or from publishing or seeking to publish the photographs themselves.
In consequence, the law has already moved on very considerably from the position taken by the Courts in the Kaye case; a necessity we would say to protect an individual’s privacy especially in circumstances where so much media speculation and information can swiftly spread virally across the internet.

If you have any queries, please contact Callum Galbraith who assists clients in dealing with similar issues in our privacy and reputation management department.