The public has a right to know that Boris Johnson had an extramarital affair with a woman who later gave birth to their daughter, the appeal court has ruled.
Three senior judges decided on Monday that voters were entitled to be told that the mayor of London conducted a “brief adulterous affair” with the woman who later gave birth to their daughter, now aged three.
The mother is Helen Macintyre, a professional art consultant, who lost her legal battle to keep secret the paternity of her daughter, who is named only as “AAA” in public court documents.
Johnson’s fatherhood of Macintyre’s daughter was first revealed by the Daily Mail in July 2010, but has since been the subject of an anonymous legal battle at the high court.
In a ruling that could redraw the privacy rights of public figures in England and Wales, the court of appeal said: “It is not in dispute that the legitimate public interest in the father’s character is an important factor to be weighed in the balance against the claimant’s expectation of privacy.
“The core information in this story, namely that the father had an adulterous affair with the mother, deceiving both his wife and the mother’s partner and that the claimant, born about nine months later, was likely to be the father’s child, was a public interest matter which the electorate was entitled to know when considering his fitness for high public office.”
The ruling came after a drawn-out privacy fight between Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Mail, and Macintyre.
The court of appeal rejected Macintyre’s bid for a privacy injunction against the newspaper, ruling that she had previously shown an “ambivalent approach to the confidentiality” of Johnson’s paternity of their daughter. The judges also upheld major parts of an earlier high court ruling that referred to the politician as “philandering”.
In a private six-day hearing at the high court last year, Macintyre said her daughter’s paternity was “exceptionally sensitive and delicate” and that it would be “absolutely devastating” for the three-year-old to learn of her paternity in the national press.
However, it emerged that she had hinted at Johnson’s identity to Nicholas Coleridge, the president of the major magazine publisher Condé Nast, in a conversation at a private house party in June 2010.
In September that year, she agreed to be interviewed by Tatler and take part in a photoshoot with the child. According to the court judgment, the mother went ahead with the interview despite receiving legal advice from her solicitor that it would be unhelpful to her privacy claims.
The three appeal court judges said: “The mother seems to have had little concern as to the effect of the magazine article on the claimant [her daughter].”
Macintyre’s daughter is alleged to be the second child conceived by Johnson as a result of extramarital affairs, the court heard during hearings last year. Lawyers for the Daily Mail argued that it was in the public interest to name Johnson as the child’s father because it “went to the issue of recklessness and whether on that account he was fit for public office”.
Referring to an earlier high court ruling, the three appeal court judges said: “It was not material to the judge’s conclusion whether contraceptive precautions were taken. What was material was that the father’s infidelities resulted in the conception of children on two occasions.
“The judge was entitled to hold that this was of itself reckless behaviour, regardless of whether any contraceptive precautions were taken.”
Johnson also appointed Macintyre to an unpaid public position as a fundraiser in the early stages of her pregnancy. However, this point played only a modest role in the court’s judgment.
Rejecting the application for a gagging order, the master of the rolls, sitting with Lord Justice Tomlinson and Lord Justice Ryder, said: “First, much that has been published by the media in relation to the claimant’s paternity remains available online. It is also included in Just Boris, a book written by Sonia Purnell.
“Secondly, the permanent injunction sought by the claimant would only restrain the defendant from referring to the information, although many other media organisations have published the same thing.
“Thirdly, it is fanciful to expect the public to forget the fact that the man who is said to be the claimant’s father, and who is a major public figure, has fathered a child after a brief adulterous affair (not for the first time). Nor are they likely to forget the outline facts of the story including the identity of the mother.”
The mayor’s official spokesman said: “We don’t comment on matters pertaining to the mayor’s private life.”