A Key Ruling for Press Freedom as Twink's Love Rival Loses Privacy Case

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Caffrey

RUTH HICKEY sensationally lost a legal action for damages yesterday, in which she claimed a newspaper had breached her privacy.

It means that the 36-year-old, who sparked a furious outburst from Twink after she ran off with the panto queen's husband, could have to pay up to , in legal costs.

Miss Hickey, a one-time clarinet player for the RTE orchestra, claimed in court that the Sunday World was wrong to report the contents of an angry phone message left by Adele King, in which she told her estranged husband to 'zip up your mickey'.

The message - which later became an internet sensation - was left by Twink after she heard Miss Hickey had had a child with David Agnew, her husband of years.

The star also referred to Miss Hickey as a 'whore' and the child she had with Mr Agnew as a 'b******'.

Miss Hickey sued the Sunday World for reporting the incident. In her privacy action she also complained about a photograph published of her and -year-old Mr Agnew with their baby son.

Her barrister Barrister Turlough O'Donnell SC told the court: 'One of the issues arising in the case is what the word "whore" means and whether it has a defamatory meaning, and has meaning used in an attack.

'This deep insult and accompanying breach of family privacy was a merciless contempt for them as human beings and warrants aggravated and exemplary damages.'

But yesterday the country's second most senior judge threw out Miss Hickey's privacy claim, saying she had actively sought publicity for herself.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, president of the High Court, ruled that the newspaper's right to freedom of expression was more important.

Judge Kearns said that the Sunday World had made it clear in its May 6 article that it was reporting comments previously made in anger by Twink.

The judge said: 'Miss King was clearly expressing her anger in strong, perhaps offensive language, about what had occurred between her husband and [Miss Hickey].'

Judge Kearns also said that anyone reading the article would simply have seen Twink's comments as 'vulgar abuse expressed in strong and offensive terms'.

The judge added: 'The general tone of the message may be deduced from one of its milder passages in which Miss King described Mr Agnew as a "fat, bald, middle-aged d*******".'

Miss Hickey and Mr Agnew had been photographed as they went to register the birth of their son in May 6 - an act the clarinet player claimed breached their privacy. During a four-day hearing in July, Miss Hickey's lawyers had told the court this was a 'private act', adding: 'In effect an attack was made on an innocent child and his mother.'

The article that followed carried the headline: 'Twink's ex shows off lovechild.'

But yesterday, Judge Kearns found that the couple were performing a 'function of a public nature', and pointed out that they could have avoided bringing their child with them. …