The Case Against Associated Newspapers
A number of high profile individuals including Prince Harry, Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Elton John have brought proceedings against Associated Newspapers, proprietor of the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, alleging unlawful information gathering.
This unlawful information gathering is alleged to have involved the illicit interception of voicemail messages, “blagging” (the obtaining of private information such as telephone bills or bank records through deception), private investigation and the authorising of breaking and entering into private property.
The allegations made by claimants against Associated Newspapers date back to 1993 but are believed to have continued “beyond until 2018”. They are in the tort of misuse of private information.
The arguments posed by Associated Newspapers
One of the arguments made by the defendant’s legal team is that the claims are “time barred”. The limitation period for privacy claims is six years, which is the standard tort limitation period. Thus, given that Associated Newspapers are alleged to have conducted its illicit activities as far back as 1993, it has argued that the claims set out against it are, quite simply, way out of time. Most notably, Associated Newspapers have argued that the claimants could well have known that they had a claim earlier “with reasonable diligence”.
In addition, Associated Newspapers have completely denied the allegations made against the publisher and have argued that it did not undertake any unlawful information gathering as alleged. This contrasts with other ongoing unlawful information gathering litigation, such as against the Mirror Group Newspapers, where in the leading trial in this area Gulati & ors v MGN in which Taylor Hampton acted for Shobna Gulati, the defendant did concede liability: Gulati & ors v MGN  EWHC 1482 (Ch), paragraph 2.
Further or in the alternative
These two different arguments made by Associates Newspapers are being run concurrently. It is both denying liability wholeheartedly and arguing that the claims made against it are statute barred.
Essentially, the argument is: X is not true, but if it is true then it does not matter because of Y.
There is nothing to prevent Associated Newspapers making these two parallel arguments. If one defence does not work, then an alternative defence may be put forward independently of the previous defence. This is known as arguing further or in the alternative, where one asserts alternative factual statements. This occurred successfully in the case of Binks v Securicor, as Mr Justice Maurice Kay stated that there is no need to “exclude altogether the possibility of pleading factual alternatives”: Binks v Securicor  EWCA Civ 993, paragraph 18.
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