Many legal minds making NZ LAW work

We are an association of independent legal practices, proactively sharing ideas and expertise for the benefit of our clients.

How Private is Private When Taking Photos in a Public Place?

Published: 18th April 2017

Author: Tanya Surrey, Mactodd

Published in: Fineprint | Autumn #72

At last year’s Melbourne Cup, a young Kiwi woman had her photograph circulated around the globe after a journalist photographed her antics at the races. As the woman was in a public place with no expectation of privacy no criminal offence was committed, nor was there any civil wrong. This would also be the case in New Zealand. The situation raises some interesting questions about how private is private when taking photographs in a public place?

What are the rules?

It’s generally lawful to take and/or publish photos or film people in public places such as a beach, shopping mall, park or other public place without their consent. There is no expectation of privacy in these places.

You must not, however, film or take photos of people if they are in a place where they can expect privacy (such as a public changing area or toilet) and that person:

  • Is naked, in underclothes, showering, toileting etc
  • Is unaware of being filmed or photographed, or
  • Has not consented to be filmed or photographed.

You should not take photos of people if:

  • They are in a place where they would expect reasonable privacy and publication would be highly offensive to an objective and reasonable person
  • It has potential to stop other people’s use and enjoyment of the same place, or
  • You have no legitimate reason for taking the film or photos.

Recent cases

Earlier this year a Taranaki woman was convicted after she distributed photos of her ex-husband’s mistress to local residents. This was an offence given the woman photographed was naked. The photos had been taken from a cell phone, copied and distributed. There would also have been an issue around ownership of the photos but the conviction related to the distribution.
A man was recently convicted in the Nelson District Court after taking photos of three girls on a beach. The girls were believed to be aged between 12 and 15 years. The man was convicted of doing an indecent act with intent to insult. While taking photographs on a public beach is generally legal, the charge was based on the man’s intentions.

Who owns the photos?

Once a photo is taken of you that image is owned by the photographer. This may be subject to any employment agreement between the photographer and their employer. In some situations the photo may be owned by the employer.

Privacy law

New Zealand’s main privacy law is the Privacy Act 1993. It’s predominantly focused on personal information about individual people. The Privacy Commissioner also has a wider ability to consider developments or actions that affect personal privacy.

There’s no guaranteed right of privacy in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. However, a person can sue based on a belief of invasion of privacy.
The common law has established a tort that has been developed through the courts. A tort is a breach of the law that’s not a criminal offence. To establish this tort there needs to be an invasion of personal privacy by public disclosure of private facts.

The leading case in New Zealand on this topic is the Mike Hosking case. Media personality Mike Hosking and his former wife Marie took legal action against a photographer and New Idea magazine that had taken photos of the couple’s children.

Mr and Mrs Hosking had previously given media interviews regarding Mrs Hosking’s pregnancy with twins. However after their daughters were born the Hoskings declined to give interviews or allow photographs of the twins to be taken. After the Hoskings separated, several magazines published articles on the relationship breakdown.

New Idea commissioned Mr Runting to take photographs of the twins to be published with an article on the couple’s separation. The children’s photographs were taken on an Auckland street as their mother pushed them in a buggy. The photos were taken without Marie Hosking’s knowledge.

In the High Court decision, Justice Randerson concluded that the New Zealand courts should not recognise a tort of invasion of privacy and that any gaps in privacy law were a concern for Parliament, not the courts. He noted that the photographs would not be described as offensive to persons of ordinary sensibilities. The case went to the Court of Appeal.
Ultimately, the Court of Appeal ruled that a tort of invasion of privacy existed in New Zealand but it didn’t apply in the case of the Hosking twins. The court held that neither the parents nor the children had a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of the photos that were taken. The photos were taken in a public place and there was no evidence for the court that publication would be harmful to the children. The appeal was dismissed.

Related Articles

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Canterbury
  • Coromandel
  • Gisborne
  • Hawke's Bay
  • Kapiti Coast
  • Manawatu - Wanganui
  • Marlborough
  • Nelson
  • Northland
  • Otago
  • Southland
  • Taranaki
  • Waikato
  • Wairarapa
  • Wellington
  • West Coast

Duncan King Law

Led by the firm’s director Kristine King, and John Ray who operates in a consultancy role, the dedicated team represents some of the most talented lawyers and legal executives in Auckland.

Although their primary focus is on Property, Commercial and Trust law the wide skillset of their team, and their vast experience in almost every aspect of the law, means they are uniquely qualified to provide advice to their varied clientele, regardless of what their legal requirements may be.

Region: Auckland

Phone: 09 623 0515

Rejthar Stuart Law

A long established law practice providing comprehensive and specialised legal advice and services to a diverse range of commercial and private clients.

Established in 1997 the firm has grown over the years to become a two solicitor, two legal executive firm representing both private and commercial clients.

Region: Bay of Plenty

Phone: 07 577 6565

Argyle Welsh Finnigan

Argyle Welsh Finnigan is a leading law firm in Ashburton,  the town servicing mid Canterbury, New Zealand.

The firm employs a team of over 25 legal professionals, including three Senior Associate Solicitors, three Staff Solicitors and five Legal Executives.  Our firm provides quality legal services with a commitment to our clients and to understanding their individual needs and requirements. 

With more than one hundred years of combined legal experience, we are able to offer prompt and professional advice on a wide range of legal matters.

Region: Canterbury

Phone: 03 308 8228

Purnell Lawyers

There is nothing as inevitable as change. Since opening for business early last century, we at Purnell Lawyers have seen many changes both in name and in the people who have made up the members of our team. We have been privileged to have served the public throughout all of these times. 

We are confident that we will continue to bring top quality legal services to our clients well into the future.

Region: Coromandel

Phone: 07 868 8680

Woodward Chrisp

At Woodward Chrisp we strive to meet the needs of our clients by providing a wide range of high quality legal services within a supportive and collaborative environment.

Woodward Chrisp is the amalgamation of two long established Gisborne legal firms: Woodward Iles & Co and Chrisp and Chrisp. Today’s partners are Ross Revington, Adam Simperingham, Jeff Allen and Ellie FitzGerald.

Region: Gisborne

Phone: 06 869 0900

NZ LAW Limited

NZ LAW Limited is an association of independent legal practices with member firms located throughout New Zealand. There are currently 53 member firms practising in a wide range of legal disciplines ranging from business law, home buying and selling, immigration law and intellectual property to aviation law and viticulture.

The group was established in 1992 when about five law firms met in Auckland to find a way to benefit their clients by replicating the conviviality and the sharing of ideas and expertise that occurs in larger law firms, but still be able to retain client confidentiality and their own independence.

Region: Hawke's Bay

Phone: 06 835 5299

BMC Lawyers

BMC lawyers has built a reputation for providing quality service and delivering real results. Our strength is our broad-ranging legal experience that gives us the ability to match clients with the right mix of legal skills for their particular needs.

Our legal professionals are passionate about what they do and work alongside a talented team of support and administration staff to make a real positive difference to our clients.”

Region: Kapiti Coast

Phone: 04 296 1105

CS Law

Looking after you, your family, and the small print.

Region: Manawatu - Wanganui

Phone: 06 368 9239

Wain & Naysmith

Based in Blenheim, Wain & Naysmith Lawyers is a full service law firm, and a powerhouse for property, family and business law.

We pride ourselves in providing clear and cost effective legal solutions and practical advice for you, your family and your business.

Region: Marlborough

Phone: 03 520 6103

Knapps Lawyers

As a firm, we promise to look after you and treat you in a manner that we would expect to be treated by a professional services provider; we promise to use every available legal remedy available to us to resolve your issue and to do what you ask us to do in a timely manner.

We will hold in strict confidence all information that we acquire through our work for you and which concerns your business or personal information.  The only exceptions are where you authorise us to disclose such information or where we must do so by law.

Region: Nelson

Phone: 03 544 7888

Thomson Wilson

Thomson Wilson is a full service law firm based in Whangarei. We’ve been trusted lawyers for the Northland community and beyond for 75 years.

We act for individuals and families, businesses, public sector and other organisations. Whether you need no-fuss advice on a simple matter, or a team of legal experts. 

Our staff provide advice in most areas of the law, including property law, business law, trusts and estates, separation and divorce, resource management, criminal law and more.

We also offer expertise in specialist areas such as Maori land, local government law, farming and forestry.

Region: Northland

Phone: 09 430 4380

Mactodd

MacTodd is a leading South Island law firm with a national reputation for its experience and expertise across a wide range of the law.

Serving the local community and national and offshore clients for over 40 years, MacTodd prides itself on being a fully comprehensive law firm with an innovative approach, meeting the demands and time zones of its diverse clientele.

MacTodd's hallmark is our friendly and professional approach. Our state-of-the-art technology provides an accurate, efficient and cost-effective service.

Region: Otago

Phone: 03 441 0125

Sheddan Pritchard Law Ltd

Incorporating traditional values and a fresh perspective, Sheddan Pritchard Law is here to assist you with all your legal needs. 

Our friendly and team-driven approach underpins our firm’s values, recognising the importance of putting people first and allows us to connect and nurture professional relationships with new and existing clients within our local community of Gore, as well as throughout New Zealand and extending overseas.

Region: Southland

Phone: 03 209 0030

Welsh McCarthy

Welsh McCarthy practises in Hawera, South Taranaki. Predominant industries in the South Taranaki district are dairy farming, oil and gas. The South Taranaki area also has the largest one-site multi product milk processing facility in the world

We deal with company and commercial transactions, commercial and family law, farm and residential sales and purchases, estate planning and family and charitable trusts. A large part of the firm also deals in the area of family law.

Region: Taranaki

Phone: 06 278 5039

Edmonds Marshall

Edmonds Marshall, Lawyers, Matamata has been providing legal services to individuals and businesses since 1918, when the partnership was known as Buchanan & Purnell.

John Buchanan moved from Thames to Matamata to open another office of Buchanan & Purnell in 1918. Mr Buchanan was also Mayor of the Matamata Borough Council from 1941-1942 and he played a large part within the Matamata community, inaugurating several of the local sports clubs.

Region: Waikato

Phone: 07 888 8137

Gawith Burridge

Gawith Burridge traces its history back to 1875 when Charles Gawith first set up his practice. Since then the firm has undergone many changes, including a merger between Gawith & Co and Burridge & Co in 1998 to form our current practice.

Our firm draws on the breadth of expertise available from some of the region’s most senior legal practitioners, as well as the skills of those who have moved here from larger corporate environments.

As a result, we provide clients with a comprehensive range of legal services right here in the Wairarapa. We can provide you with legal assistance whether you are an individual or a company, with everything from setting up a Will to selling your farming business. 

Region: Wairarapa

Phone: 06 370 0000

Gillespie Young Watson

We specialise in Property, Commercial and Trust Law. When it comes to law firm size we are bigger than smaller and smaller than big. By limiting the work we do to our specialist areas, we like to think we bring together the best of big firm skill sets with the personal care, attention and relationships of small firms.

We expect our clients to receive clear, practical and timely advice. We place a premium on accessibility and convenience to our clients. We value and appreciate all of our clients and want to do the best possible job for each of them. When we close a file we want the client to feel they have received exceptional advice, service and value.

Region: Wellington

Phone: 04 569 3997

Hannan & Seddon

The Law Firm of Hannan & Seddon dates back to September 1867.

The firm's offices were in Werita Street from 1867 until 1982 when the firm moved to Tarapuhi Street and then to its current spacious premises at 61 Guinness Street in 1998.

The name Hannan comes from Mr Michael Hannan whose son John Hannan (Jack) joined the firm in 1908. Jack Hannan remained in partnership until he passed away in 1974 at the age of 90!

The name Seddon comes from Mr T E Y Seddon (son of Premier Richard John Seddon from Kumara) who joined the firm in the 1920's. The other prominent Solicitor at Hannan & Seddon was Cyril McGinley who joined the firm in the late 1920’s and retired as a Consultant in 1997 aged 87.

Currently we have two Partners within our firm. Tony Sullivan who has been with us for 29 years and Colin Smith, 26 years. The firm also has two long serving Legal Executives Elaine Knowles and Beverley Walsh.  

Region: West Coast

Phone: 03 768 4169

All the information published on this website, or in any article herein is true and accurate to the best of the authors' knowledge. Information on this site should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by NZ LAW Limited, or individual NZ LAW member firms for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on information published on this site. Views expressed in any article are the views of the authors individually and do not necessarily reflect the view of NZ LAW or their member firms. Information appearing on this site may only be reproduced with prior approval from NZ LAW Limited Head Office, and credit being given to the source. © NZ LAW Limited