In this regular feature we draw attention to the last week’s law and media news and next week’s upcoming events. If readers have any news or events which they would like to draw attention to please add them by way of comments on this post.
We lead with the Hardeep Singh case. The claim against him by His Holiness Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj was finally dismissed by the Court of Appeal when the claimant failed to lodge the £200,000 security for costs. It is reported that Hardeep Singh, who is said to have spent nearly £100,000 on fighting the case is intending to pursue His Holiness in India as he apparently has no UK assets.
Back in the land of the phone hacking cases, Tom Watson MP and Lord Prescott both alleged in parliamentary debates this week that there had been hacking by other newspapers owned by Mr Rupert Murdoch’s companies. We had a post on this earlier in the week. The Independent reports that the police are now investigating phone hacking claims by the solicitor who acted for jailed former MSP Tommy Sheridan.
In a report of the hearing in the case of Lewis v Commissioner of Police, Channel 4 News notes disclosure the disclosure that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and its chairman paid £20,000 to lawyer Mark Lewis in settlement of his libel claim arising out of comments made by Baroness Buscombe.
The Press Gazette reports that the former Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill has launched a legal action against publisher Mirror Group Newspapers demanding libel damages of up to £200,000 and Lady Moore has commenced libel proceedings against the “Daily Mail”
The Meeja Law “Mid Week Media Mop Up” returns this week.
Journalism and the PCC
“Daily Star” journalist, Richard Peppiatt, has written an open letter about his resignation from the “Daily Star” as a result of its “anti-Muslim” bias. This is reported in the Guardian and is widely commented on by the blogs. The Angry Mob blog asks “Will the Daily Star dig up dirt on Richard Peppiatt?”. Five Chinese Crackers has a post entitled “Richard Peppiatt and the top ten ridiculous tabloid editor denials” where is noted that, in the Star’s official response, it “hilariously” claims:
“For the record, the Daily Star editorial policy does not hold any negativity towards Islam and the paper has never, and does not endorse, the EDL”.
The story is also discussed by Minority Thought which suggests that Mr Peppiatt’s letter
“proves what blogs like mine have been saying for a while. That is that the Daily Star consists mainly of needlessly biased or entirely fabricated stories written to demonise Muslims and Islam, sandwiches between equally dishonest and misleading stories about celebrities – especially the Star’s favourite, Jordan (not the country)”.
The Churnalism.com site (for comparing news stories to look for cutting and pasting) was used by Minority Thought this week to track a PA story through the nationals. The story is discussed by “Enemies of Reason” under the title “Copy and paste, where’s the problem?” and also by Five Chinese Crackers which recalls some of Paul Dacre’s evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
And finally, a positive story about reporting. Hold the Front page reports that the Worcester News is breaking new ground by using Twitter to report directly from a courtroom while covering an ongoing murder trial. Its reporter is tweeting from the Birmingham Crown Court, with a feed to the paper’s website.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were two statements in open court this week.
In Erdogan v Telegraph Media, , the Prime Minister of Turkey, has received substantial undisclosed libel damages from the Daily Telegraph after it alleged he accepted a donation to his political party from Iran. The Statement in Open Court is here. There is also a Press Release and an Apology.
In Mzimba v Independent News and Media a TV journalist accepted substantial undisclosed libel damages over a claim that he had behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner on a documentary assignment. The Statement in Open Court is here. There is a report of the case on Varsity Online which explains some of the background.
In the Courts
On 28 February and 1 March 2011, the Court of Appeal heard the appeal and cross appeal in the case of Baturina v Times Newspapers. Judgment was reserved.
On 1 March 2011, the Court of Appeal gave judgment in the case of Sousa v London Borough of Waltham Forest ( EWCA Civ 194) – a case about tree root damage but of interest to media lawyers because the defendant sought to argue that the recent decision in MGN v UK meant that the success fee was not recoverable. This argument was decisively rejected by the Court. Ward LJ, giving the leading judgment made it clear that the courts were bound by the decision of the House of Lords in Campbell v MGN (No.2). Moore-Bick LJ said
“Finally, it is necessary to mention briefly the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of MGN v The United Kingdom (Application No. 39401/04), in which the court held that the award of costs in favour of Miss Campbell against MGN that included a success fee (upheld in Campbell v MGN (No. 2)) involved an infringement of the defendant’s right to free speech. Mr. Bacon submitted that the decision supported the wider proposition that it is unreasonable for a claimant who can finance the litigation without recourse to a conditional fee agreement to do so and that therefore Mr. Sousa should not be allowed to recover the success fee as part of the costs in this case.
I am unable to accept that submission for two reasons. First, because in MGN v The United Kingdom the court was concerned with the question whether the liability to pay a success fee involved a disproportionate interference with the newspaper’s right of free speech and was unreasonable on that account. The case is not, therefore, remotely comparable to the present. Second, because unless the liability to pay a success fee can be said to infringe the defendant’s rights under the Convention (which is clearly not the case here), questions of proportionality and reasonableness do not arise. It is for Parliament to decide what arrangements viewed overall will best serve the general requirement for access to justice. Moreover, the submission is contrary to the decision of the House of Lords in Campbell v MGN (No. 2), which remains binding on this court” [54-55].
On 1 March 2011, permission to appeal was refused on the papers (by Sir David Keene) in the case of Wallis v Meredith.
On 2 March 2011, the Court of Appeal dismissed the application for permission to appeal in the case of Kaschke v Gray.
On 3 and 4 March 2011, Tugendhat J heard applications in the libel claim of Lewis v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis. Judgment was reserved.
There were three private hearings last week in the jury listed as RJA v AJR, ZAM v CFW & anor and MNB v News Group Newspapers. Judgment in the second of these cases was handed down today ( EWHC 476 (QB)).
Media and Freedom of Expression Law in Other Jurisdictions
In Paulsson v. Cooper (2011 ONCA 150) the Court of Appeal for Ontario held that the Ontario courts had jurisdiction to try a defamation claim brought by an Ontario based academic against the “Slavic Review”, an academic journal published in the United States, of which 81 copies were distributed in Ontario. It held that, applying the new framework set out in Van Breda v. Village Resorts Ltd., 2010 ONCA 84 (CanLII), there was a “real and substantial connection between the appellant’s claim and Ontario”. The Court went on to conclude that there was no other forum where it would be more just or convenient to try the action.
In Rodrigues v. Toop, 2011 ONSC 794 the Ontario Superior Court of Justice held that he distribution of a flyer in a public car park to individuals who identified themselves as members of Local 1974, containing allegedly defamatory statements about the members of the executive, occurred on an occasion of qualified privilege.
The Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled that Superior Court Justice Claude Larouche must recuse himself from the ongoing defamation case that Pierre Karl Péladeau, head of Quebecor media empire, has against Sylvain Lafrance, vice-president of Radio-Canada, the French-language service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The Montreal Gazette report is here.
The Canadian Supreme Court blog, “The Court”, has a post about the recent decision of that court in the Bou Mahlab “group libel” case.
In the case of Prasad v Khelawan ( FJHC 123) the High Court of Fiji awarded defamation damages of Fiji $30,000 (£10,000) in respect of defamatory imputations against a teacher on a radio programme.
In Zimbabwe, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) treasurer Roy Bennett has accused High Court Judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu of abusing the court process by filing a defamation suit against him.
US Law and Media News
Once again, this will be the subject of a separate post
From the Blogs
The New Zealand Media Law journal blog has an interesting post about a threatened defamation action arising out of a blog about a letter of claim.
The new “Law Think” blog has a couple of posts which will interest Inforrm readers. First, there is a discussion of the “Right, or lack of right, to image in UK law” – suggesting that there “the gap in the law where an image right is concerned is both increasingly obvious and worrying“. This is a topic on which we have previously posted.
Second, there is a post entitled “UK Free Speech vs US Free Speech – more speech not always the solution” dealing with the contrast between the English case of case of Munim Abdul and the US case of Snyder v Phelps. The post concludes
“I do not think that the prosecution of Munim Abdul or MAC in any way stifles public debate. Nor do I think that the manner and method of Westboro Baptist Church’s protest contributes to it”.
No public events for next week have been reported to us.
Next Week in the Courts
We are not aware of any hearings in media law cases before the courts in next 7 days.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Bowker v Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, heard 21 October 2010 (Sharp J).
Cook v Telegraph Media Group Ltd heard 25 February 2011 (Tugendhat J)
Baturina v Times Newspapers heard 28 February and 1 March 2011 (Master of the Rolls, Sedley and Hooper LJJ)
Lewis v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, heard 3 and 4 March 2011 (Tugendhat J)