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Robin Callender Smith

Robin Callender Smith


Postgraduate Research Student

Thesis title:

Celebrity Privacy and Proportionality: How English Law Balances the Rights of Protection and Interference


Professor Ian Walden and Professor Christopher Millard


“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them,” observes Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. This taxonomy of the three forms of celebrity has stood the test of time over the centuries. In Malvolio’s first category are celebrities “par excellence” like the British monarch and royal family. Such individuals have high-profile public personae and are subject to external scrutiny for both constitutional and practical purposes. They, however, are also entitled to private life rights. The second category recognises celebrity based on accomplishment or competition – politicians and the like - and his third those evanescent celebrities whose status is generated by media identification. The thesis contends that it has been the celebrity status of all three groups which has been a significant driving force over the last 175 years in the practical development of the laws of privacy in England. These privacy domains – confidential information, copyright, data protection, defamation, private information and protection from harassment – have developed at common law or been introduced by statute. Having created this repertoire of substantive law to protect celebrity privacy it is becoming clear that the procedural elements - necessary to enforce, preserve and protect private information in contemporary society - are becoming less effective, with celebrities particularly as the targets for unlawful revelations. The internet permits an unregulated section of society to subvert legal rules and procedures by identifying and publishing the information that celebrities seek to keep private. The means of addressing, discouraging and preventing such privacy breaches are currently ill-formed and only randomly effective, presenting a major legal challenge for the future.


Robin Callender Smith completed his LLB in 1973 at Queen Mary, University of London and his LLM in Computer and Communications Law with Distinction at CCLS in 2010. He was called to the Bar in 1977 by Gray's Inn. Before studying law he worked as a journalist for  five years. He has worked as a barrister - in Chambers and in employment - for over 35 years and is a media law barrister for Express Newspapers, on the Sunday Express, Daily Express and Daily Star and for News International on the Sun and the Sun on Sunday. He has served three-year periods as an elected member of the Bar Council and Gray's Inn Barristers’ Committee. He has two part-time judicial appointments: Information Rights Judge and Immigration Judge. He also worked as a Deputy District Judge (Crime) and Mental Health Judge until 2012. He is Deputy Chairman of the Financial Services Authority's (FSA's) Regulatory Decisions Committee (RDC). He is Chairman of the Independent Appeals Body for PhonepayPlus, the premium rate telephone Regulator approved by OfCom. He is a Vice President of London Youth, London's largest youth charity.


  • Press Law (Sweet & Maxwell, London 1978).
  • Freddie Starr ate my Privacy OK! Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property, Vol. 1 No. 1, 2011, pp. 53–72
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall....Are Those Image Rights I see Before Me? Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property, Vol. 2 No. 2, 2012, pp. 195–19
  • The Missing Witness? George V, Competence and Compellability and the Criminal Libel Trial of Edward Frederick Mylius. The Journal of Legal History,  Vol. 33, No.2, August 2012, pp 209 - 239]
  • Social Science Research Network (SSRN) papers
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