Science & Tech 30 November 2011 Paul McMullan and the denial of privacy Why privacy is not just for "paedos". Sign up for our weekly email * Print HTML The evidence of former News of the World journalist Paul McMullan to the Leveson inquiry was extraordinary and attention-grabbing. One almost wanted, following Blade Runner, for the barrister to ask McMullan what he would do if he saw a tortoise upside down in the sun. In the words of Graham Linehan on Twitter, it was as if McMullan was of another species. What caused this response to his appearance and his evidence? It was perhaps the casual inhumanity and lack of any ethical concern. The only moment when McMullan showed any genuine disdain was when he dismissed his former editors as "scum" for what they did against him personally. But other than this flicker of defiance, his evidence was dark, depressing, and disconcerting. And it was revealing. It gave the impression of a tabloid journalist simply thinking aloud, without any of the usual excuses, evasions, and euphemisms. The evidence was simply raw. It may well be that some of the evidence is unreliable, and it could also be that McMullan is not representative of tabloid journalism, but anyone who saw his stumbling and wince-inducing performance will probably never forget it. At one point McMullan flatly rejected the general right of "privacy". It was a space, he contended, only for bad people to do bad things. Privacy, he assured the inquiry, was just for "paedos". Indeed, privacy was "evil". Of course, McMullan cannot really believe this. Presumably the "toilet suite" he mentioned he wants for his Dover pub will come with cubicles fitted with doors and locks. One would hope he would not be a pub landlord who insists that all his customers defecate in an open room, at the risk of being denounced to the other customers as a child abuser. In fact, everyone needs a private space to do certain things, even McMullan. Privacy is not an evil; it instead provides the sense of autonomy and dignity which is essential for any human being in a civilized society. There are questions as to how this basic human need for privacy is translated into effective legal remedies and how it is accorded respect by the tabloid media. There is also the difficult issue as to how privacy is balanced with publication of information in the public interest. But this does not mean that a person should not have a private space at all. David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman › Why the all male Sports Personality of the Year shortlist is a good thing David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog. His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case. His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson. David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court. (Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.) Subscribe from just £1 per issue More Related articles The truth behind the Uber "flying cars" headlines The view from Google Earth is magnificent – but there's a problem What will the 2017 local elections tell us about the general election?