Norwich Pharmacal Order may be the way if Colleen Rooney wishes to legally find out who has been leaking private documents rather than turning to the Wagatha Christie attempts that has apparently found the culprit as none other than her friend and fellow WAG, Rebekah Vardy.
It turns out that some private information that Colleen has shared on her private social media accounts has been suddenly appearing on newspaper articles without her permission and after years of this frustration and upset had led Colleen to turn detective.
Colleen created a fake social media account and started posting details or stories which were in fact fake and has been drip feeding these stories for the last 5 months. The account had been blocking friends so that they couldn’t see the posts other than just one person. It was when three stories appeared in the Sun newspaper that Colleen had sadly found out that it could be no one else than Mrs Vardy.
If an individual had found that someone was unlawfully stealing information online or breach data protection regulations or infringed on that individual’s intellectual property rights, then usually the wrongdoer is known to the individual and action can be taken to remedy the wrongdoing. This is not always the case though and it is sometimes necessary for the injured party to request a Norwich Pharmacal Order from the court to be able to insist in for example a newspaper disclosing the identity of the wrongdoer.
Norwich Pharmacal Order or an NPO is essentially the product of Norwich Pharmacal v Commissioners of Customs & Excise  UKHL 6 and acts as a form of disclosure order which is made by a judge under the equitable jurisdiction of the court.
Mrs Rooney, although states that it is without a doubt that Mrs Vardy is the culprit, could not rely solely on this ‘evidence’ and would only be able to be sure if she sought an order from the court to ask the newspaper for disclosure. In Norwich Pharmacal, Customs & Excise had published information revealing that a number of shipments of a particular chemical compound (patented by Norwich Pharmacal) had been imported into the UK without a licence which would be a breach of Norwich Pharmacal patent rights. Norwich Pharmacal had no cause of action against Customs & Excise and sought disclosure of the names of the wrongdoers who had imported the patented compound. The House of Lords held that Customs & Excise were under a duty to disclose the information sought.
Mrs Rooney would understandably wish to rely on breach of confidence as the reason for this order being granted. An NPO is often be sought against newspapers that receive and publish information after receiving documents in breach of confidence and the court then orders for the newspaper to reveal the identity of the source. An interesting case in this regard was X Ltd v Morgan-Grampian (Publishers) Ltd  1 AC 1 which also saw the claimant obtain a without notice injunction to prevent a magazine from publishing an article that had confidential information within it. This was on top of the request for the disclosure of the journalist’s notes that the claimant was hoping would identify the informant. It was held that the journalist and the publishers were within the Norwich Pharmacal principles, because it was to protect the claimant from other tortious dissemination of confidential information as well as being in the interests of justice.
It is an interesting matter, and although sad for Mrs Rooney that she will now feel she cannot trust her friends (if it turns out to be true), is something that could end up in a court. We at Lawdit Solicitors are used to seeing matters such as this and frequently assist our clients to obtain such an order, especially for online matters. Social media is becoming more and more at the heart of these disputes and breach of confidence on private information is sadly at the heart of it. Do not hesitate to call us if you feel you have been a victim of this and wish to apply to the court for a Norwich Pharmacal Order.
We will advise you on the process and even if it is necessary. There sometimes are other methods which can be just as effective.