A married US economist lost a High Court battle against his Thai bride over a Facebook picture she uploaded that he feared would out his secret relationship with her.
Economic analyst Harlow Higinbotham, who lives and works in the US, married his first wife in 1991 before meeting Wipaporn Teekhungam in Bangkok in 2001, and they began a relationship.
He said he loved her, gave her an engagement ring and told her she was the perfect age to bear his children, the judge told the court.
He visited her whenever he was travelling in south-east Asia and, in January 2004, after meeting her parents and paying a dowry, they got ‘married’ at a ceremony in Thailand, although Ms Teekhungam knew he already had a wife. They then had triplets in 2008, who were named after Mr Higinbotham’s family and took his surname.
But after the relationship broke down at the end of 2009, child support proceedings began in Thailand and the US. Five years later, Ms Teekhungam created the Facebook profile, which featured a photo of her and Mr Higinbotham with the triplets on their laps.
Facebook usage in Asia
Even though his other wife knew of their relationship by the time the photo appeared online, he decided to bring a privacy case against Ms Teekhungam at the High Court for misuse of private information, breach of confidence and alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act over her uploading of the photograph.
The case was heard in the UK as Ms Teekhungam was now living with her new husband Winton Perry, and they now live in Norfolk.
Mr Justice Nicklin endorsed an earlier decision that the claim should be struck out, saying it "has been brought, not for any legitimate reason, but as an act of harassment or revenge".
Describing the claim as "worthless", he added: "In many ways, this case is extraordinary. But it is also very sad. Caught in the crossfire are three young children."
The judge said that by the time of the online posting, Mr Higinbotham had already told his wife of the relationship and the triplets and the affair was widely known in her circle.
Dismissing Mr Higinbotham’s appeal, he said that, objectively judged, the Facebook profile was anodyne and inoffensive, if maybe mischievous.
"It is said that every photograph tells a story. But the story in this photograph is one the claimant did not want told. He wanted to keep secret the fact that he had a separate family in Thailand.
"He contends that the eight-year-relationship with (Ms Teekhungam) was undertaken on ‘the express understanding that their relationship would at all times be kept secret from the claimant’s family – in particular the claimant’s wife – friends and business associates
"This is perhaps where the unreality begins. Most rational people would recognise that the chances of keeping secret the existence of a second ‘wife’ and three children were slim to non-existent.
"It is plain, however, that the claimant was confident that he could do so, perhaps relying on the fact that they were over 8,000 miles away from his first wife and life back in Illinois."
He concluded that the information Mr Higinbotham sought to protect was so firmly embedded in the public domain because of the Thai and US proceedings that it was "Canute-like" to think the case could achieve anything of value.
The judge also discharged an anonymity order granted to Mr Higinbotham in December 2016.