As we all recall, Katie Price was married between February 2010 and March 2012 to the cage fighter Alex Reid (MMA aficionados will recall his surprisingly decent fight against Tom Watson in BAMMA). During this (predictably) brief marriage, Ms Price (somewhat unpredictably) obtained footage of Mr Reid cross-dressing and engaging in sexual conduct.
The footage consisted of video recordings and/or photographs obtained by Ms Price in October 2009 and June 2010, showing Mr Reid dressed as his cross-dressing alter-ego “Roxanne” and engaging in sexual activity. In late 2009 he saw on her laptop that she possessed these images, and after confronting her she promised to delete them. However in February 2011 he received messages from Ms Price’s new boyfriend saying he had seen these explicit images, hence Mr Reid instructed solicitors who secured written undertakings that she would not disclose them further.
That, sadly, was not the end of matters. It transpired during later family proceedings concerning Mr Reid and his ex-partner Chantelle Houghton, that Ms Price had disclosed an explicit photograph to Ms Houghton (a copy of which was included in the court papers). Mr Reid was also blackmailed by someone who said they had compromising videos of him, who it appeared had been given the videos by Ms Price. There were countless other highly distressing experiences for Mr Reid involving individuals who informed him they too had seen this footage. Indeed at a school sports day he met a fellow parent who told him Ms Price had offered to show her the footage, and that Ms Price would talk about the material and show it to people when drunk. Additionally there were, of course, repeated references to Mr Reid’s sex life in the media.
In 2017 he brought a claim against Ms Price for breach of confidence, misuse of private information and breach of contract, harassment under the Protection of Harassment Act 1997, and compensation under the Data Protection Act 1998. His pleaded case was that between 2012 and 2018 she had disclosed the delicate footage at least 50 times, and he sought an injunction to prevent further disclosure as well as damages of up to £25,000.
The Defence was struck out in November 2019 for failure to comply with directions, and judgment entered on the claim, hence the instant hearing was for assessment of damages. Ms Price, who was by this point a bankrupt and also acting in person after her solicitors came off the record, did not attend the hearing.
Mr Reid in his witness statements explained how he found the numerous experiences horrifying and mortifying, and had sought counselling for stress and anxiety as well as seeing a number of psychologists and a hypnotherapist. He said in his statement “I feel suicidal and sick every time Katie makes these statements”, and confirmed in court he had felt the same in recent times.
Mr Justice Warby gave judgment. There is some helpful consideration at paragraphs 15 to 17 of how a claim may continue against a party who since the instigation of proceedings has been declared bankrupt. I won’t repeat it here but it’s worth remembering if you find yourself in the future litigating such a claim.
Warby J explained there was no material difference between the approaches to be taken to the claims in their various forms, and that “the essential task is to compensate the claimant for the wrongful retention and wrongful disclosure of images of his sexual conduct, and the wrongful disclosure of information about that conduct”. Compensation for the tortious disclosure of personal information should aim to restore the claimant to the position he would have occupied but for the tort. At paragraph 50 he provides a concise description of the factors to be considered, as extracted from the relevant authorities and academic writing.
Counsel on behalf of Mr Reid submitted that an award of more than £60,000 would be justified and was supported by comparable cases. The wrongdoing, it was submitted, “destroyed” Mr Reid’s life. Warby J highlighted however that the value stated on the Claim Form was limited to £25,000 and there had been no application to amend. He accepted the claim merited an award of at least £25,000, hence assessed damages at this sum.
There is interesting commentary at paragraphs 55 to 60 of how the damages should be looked at. Although of course highly distressing, the Judge explained for example that he could not accept the Claimant’s life has been “destroyed” which he dismissed as rhetorical exaggeration. Moreover he was not able to attribute the psychological problems as described to the wrongs in question, as to compensate for psychiatric harm a court would need greater detail as well as expert evidence attributing causation.
By way of personal comment, I feel very sorry for Alex Reid. What people get up to behind closed doors is their own business, and it’s totally unacceptable for ex-partners to abuse trust in this way. It bears very close resemblance to the one of the most evil of modern sins, revenge porn.
Oh to be a celebrity….