In the recent case of SOJ v JAO, the High Court has granted a worldwide privacy injunction and continued an anonymity order in order to prevent personal information relating to a well-known, married, billionaire businessman (SOJ) being leaked by the defendant JAO with whom he had had an affair.

Factual Background

In late 2017/early 2018, SOJ and JAO had had an affair.  Once the affair had come to an end, SOJ said that JAO had engaged in a campaign of harassment against him.  In response, JAO threatened to disclose details of her relationship with SAO and alleged that she had contracted two sexually transmitted diseases as a result of their relationship.  JAO issued proceedings in the USA and SOJ issued a claim in London. 

In August 2018, SOJ and JAO entered into a settlement agreement whereby SOJ agreed to pay JAO $1,500,000 to secure JAO’s silence through a variety of confidentiality and non-disclosure provisions.

After this settlement agreement was signed, a mutual acquaintance (referred to as Mrs X) of both SOJ and JAO told SOJ that she knew about the settlement agreement and the settlement sum SOJ had agreed to pay to JAO.  Mrs X showed SOJ WhatsApp messages exchanged between Mrs X and JAO and these messages included photographs of SOJ and JAO together.  Mrs X also told JAO that SAO had repeatedly disparaged him and stalked JAO and his family.  It was SOJ’s position that this information could only have come from JAO.  To try and prove she hadn’t breached the settlement agreement, JAO agreed that her mobile phone could be forensically examined. 

In August 2019 however, JAO threatened proceedings in the USA alleging SOJ had breached the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) when examining her mobile phone.

SOJ then applied to the High Court in London, without notice to JAO, for an injunction to prevent JAO from publishing or disclosing the fact of their relationship, alleging that she had contracted two sexually transmitted diseases and other details relating to their legal dispute.

The High Court’s decision

Mr Justice Pepperall heard SOJ’s application for an interim injunction and for the anonymity order to be continued.  In making his decision, the Judge had to carefully balance SOJ’s right to privacy and JAO’s right to freedom of expression.  In continuing the anonymity order and granting an interim injunction, the Judge held that:

  1. Disclosure of the parties’ names would defeat the very purpose of SOJ’s application in that it would destroy the privacy of the information sought to be protected.
  2. SOJ may be the victim of blackmail and refusing anonymity would deny him a potential judicial remedy for such wrongdoing. Equally, anonymity is necessary to protect JAO’s interests in circumstances where she had been accused of blackmail but not yet afforded the opportunity to present her side of the case.
  3. Continuing the anonymity order would also give the court the advantage of being able to explain more of the circumstances of the case.
  4. JAO’s claim that SOJ had breached the GDPR was unlikely to succeed.
  5. SOJ was unlikely to be adequately compensated in damages for breach of confidence and publication of the confidential information may well cause SOJ and his family significant embarrassment and upset. On the other hand, it was not obvious that JAO would suffer any real loss by being unable to breach the confidentiality agreement and even if she did, damages would be an adequate remedy for JAO if she succeeded at trial. 
  6. Whilst JAO was restrained from using, disclosing or publishing the confidential information anywhere in the world, this was not an anti-suit injunction and so JAO was not prevented from issuing her threatened proceedings, whether in the USA or any jurisdiction, if she did not breach any of the terms of the Court’s Order.


This case is a useful reminder that:

  • Where there is a threat of publication of confidential information anywhere in the world, the Courts in England and Wales can restrain such publication anywhere in the world.
  • The Court will not assist or encourage blackmail.

Our specialist commercial litigation team regularly advises on issues relating to confidential information, data protection and reputation management.  If you need advice on any of these topics, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team today on 0161 941 4000 or via email.