Law and Media Round Up – 9 January 2012

9 01 2012

Welcome to the first Inforrm round up of 2012. The legal vacation is not over until Wednesday but there is still plenty to report. Over the winter break Inforrm offered you a review of 2011 and the media law quiz of the year. Entries to the latter will be accepted until 13 January.

The police has provided some of the week’s most noteworthy media law stories. Rebekah Brooks’ former PA was arrested and questioned on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice, as part of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Weeting.

Elizabeth Filkin’s new report on police relationships with journalists [PDF link] has been praised by the Guardian but labelled “patronising, bordering on offensive” by the Telegraph’s crime correspondent, Mark Hughes. The report makes seven key recommendations to the Metropolitan Police Service to improve communication, transparency and ethical practice. Her comments and suggestions on alcohol consumption and flirting grabbed headlines, but the report covers far wider ground.

Lord Justice Leveson has invited any further applications for Core Participant status for Module Two on relationships between the press and police – to be submitted by 13 January 2012. Other submissions on Module Two should be made by the end of February. Key questions can be found here [PDF]. The Inquiry resumes on Monday (see below for schedule).

Twitter was alive with talk of an obscenity case at Southwark Crown Court last week: Michael Peacock was found not guilty of six charges under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. David Allen Green reports here for the New Statesman. Peacock’s solicitors, Hodge, Jones & Allen have released a statement here. Jane Fae, a specialist in the Obscene Publications Act, comments on the case here.

The Daily Mirror’s Andrew Penman reports on the end of a long-running year libel battle with Carlos Torregrosa, who the paper accused of conning Britons buying homes in Costa Blanca, Spain in 1998. The appeal court has dismissed Torregrosa’s claim.

There have been a couple of interesting cases involving social media: a HR manager bringing a constructive dismissal case against his former employer after a dispute over his LinkedIn profile; and the ongoing PhoneDog case in California raising the question of who owns a former employee’s Twitter account. Finally, Eric Goldman, associate professor at Santa Clara University School of Law has been tracking cases involving social media evidence on his blog, as drawn to our attention by Eric E. Johnson here.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

There have been no statements in open court during the legal vacation.

Journalism and the PCC

There are two adjudicated cases to report since our last round up, and a number of resolved cases which can be found here. A clause 6 (children) complaint by Alex Neil MSP against the Scottish Sun was not upheld; while a clause 1 (accuracy) complaint by Lutfur Rahman against the Daily Telegraph was upheld.

Former News of the World editor Colin Myler has been appointed editor-in-chief of the The New York Daily News. He took the helm at the News of the World after Andy Coulson’s resignation in 2007 until the paper’s closure last year.

Rebekah Brooks received a little tabloid treatment firsthand, with the Daily Mail’s publication of pictures from her holiday in South Africa. The Guardian’s Lisa O’Carroll quipped on Twitter:

Now Mail have published pap shots of Rebekah Brooks, does this mean Sun retaliates with pap pix of [Paul] Dacre in Caribbean?

Roy Greenslade commented on the run-in between Sun managing editor Richard Caseby and the Guardian, picking up on Private Eye’s coverage (issue 1304) and addressing Newsnight’s claim that the Guardian’s Nick Davies had refused to appear on the programme alongside Caseby.

As a supplement to Inforrm’s media law quiz, you might enjoy the Guardian’s ‘Phone Hacking Quiz of the Year‘.

Neville Thurlbeck, former News of the World reporter, has started blogging and can be found on Twitter as well (@nthurlbeck). His most recent post reveals that when he was news editor, he

was asked to attend several News International seminars organised by HR where the chief theme was, “How to Sack Your Staff and Not Give Them a Pay-off”.

Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, prompting the Daily Mail to re-publish a new version of its famous “murderers” front page. In a video and article, the Mail’s editor Paul Dacre outlined what he perceived as the high legal risk of the 1997 front page, for which the paper has received widespread praise. In a comment on Meeja Law, media law consultant David Banks questions the suggested risk of contempt. Meanwhile, the Angry Mob blog provides some context from the newspaper archives on the Mail’s editorial line, as also covered in Nick Davies’ book, Flat Earth News.

It seems that Rupert Murdoch has joined Twitter, but his wife Wendi Deng has most definitely not. Any resemblance between the pair and characters ‘Stanhope Feast’ and ‘Ho Chi Mao’ from Channel 4’s comedy ‘Hacks’, aired on News Years Day, was purely coincidental, of course. The Guardian’s preview quotes director Guy Jenkin on the few legal issues incurred: apparently there was “not a battalion of lawyers or notes from lawyers involved. Obviously they took a look but there were not many changes.”

AA Gill’s scathing review of the programme (££) in the Sunday Times revealed that he may also have been a victim of phone hacking. He said, as reported on Jon Slattery’s blog,

Hacks was TV’s satirical response to the phone-hacking scandal. I should admit to a personal interest here: I am paid by News International and have been interviewed by the constabulary as apparently my phone was hacked.”

In the Courts

There was the usual “pre-Christmas rush” – with the courts giving a substantial number of reserved judgments before the end of the legal term on 21 December 2011.

On 19 December 2011, the Court of Appeal (Master of the Rolls, Etherton and Gross LJJ) gave judgment in the case of Hutcheson v Popdog Limited ([2011] EWCA Civ 1580) which was heard on 7 December 2011.

On the same day Tugendhat J gave judgment in the injunction case of AB v Barristers Benevolent Association Ltd ([2011] EWHC 3413 (QB)) which was heard on 13 December 2011 and in Rothschild v Associated Newspapers ([2011] EWHC 3462 (QB)) heard on 15 December 2011.

On 20 December 2011, HHJ Parkes QC handed down judgment in the case of Morrison v Buckinghamshire CC ([2011] EWHC 3444 (QB)) which was heard 20 to 21 July) and Tugendhat J gave judgment in Dell’olio v Associated Newspapers ([2011] EWHC 3472 (QB)).

On 21 December 2011, Eady J gave judgment in the “harassment” case of Neocleous v Jones ([2011] EWHC 3459 (QB))

Two judgments were also given in relation to “phone hacking indemnity” claims, Coulson v NGN ([2011] EWHC 3482 (QB)) and Mulcaire v NGN ([2011] EWHC 3469 (Ch)).

Events

9 January 2012, 10 am. Art Exhibition: Justice and Security: there is more than one truth. A series of cartoons and videos on the issues of justice and security, that have been produced in conjunction with the Video Journalism Movement in Amsterdam. Atrium Gallery, LSE, London.

25 -29 January 2012. Centre for Investigative Journalism annual film week. Series of investigative films, followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers. On Saturday 28 January, after the screening of The Whistleblower, there will be a networking party with opportunity to talk to the filmmakers and other journalists. City University London.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

A taxi driver who was featured in Ireland’s ‘Prime Time Investigates’ programme on RTÉ intends to bring a defamation claim over allegations about his taxi business, reports the Irish Times.

Ann Murphy, whose former fiancee hid explosives in her flight luggage without her knowledge in 1986, has brought a defamation claim against the US-based Slate.com in the Irish High Court. According to the Irish Independent, Murphy has been granted leave to serve a claim for damages.

Dr Andrew Wakefield has filed a defamation claim against the British Medical Journal in Texas, naming editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee and investigative journalist, Brian Deer. The Guardian quotes the BMJ’s statement in response to the news here. Science Insider has a report here.

An organisation that prevents the slaughter of retired racehorses, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, is suing a lawyer for defamation in New York, after he represented one of the foundation’s donors, in Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation v. Terry, No. 150012/2012, Supreme Court of the State of New York County of New York. Reuters has a report here.

BD News reports that a Bangladeshi court has dismissed a defamation case against three Transparency International officials. The court found “the charges had no substance“, the site reports. TrustLaw reported on the claim brought by lawyers in Chittagong here, in December.

Several Australian sites report on a legal dispute between a blogger, Joshua Meggitt and a television panelist, Marieke Hardy, after the latter wrongly accused the former of running a “hate blog” against her. Hardy has reportedly paid out Aus$13,000 and apologised on her blog.

Another case involving Google suggested search; this time in France. Google has been fined US$65,000 by a Parisian court because its autocomplete function gave the French word for “crook” (“escroc”) when users searched for the name of insurance company Lyonnaise de Garantie. Courthouse News has a short report here.

Next week in the courts

The legal vacation will end on Wednesday 11 January 2012.

Next week at the Leveson Inquiry

Monday 9th January: John Edwards (The Sun); Duncan Larcombe (The Sun); Kelvin Mackenzie (formerly with The Sun); Dominic Mohan (The Sun); Gordon Smart (The Sun); Justin Walford (The Sun); Stuart Higgins (The Sun – to be read); Simon Toms (The Sun – to be read); David Yelland (The Sun – to be read).

Tuesday 10th January: Lionel Barber (FT); Chris Blackhurst (Independent); Tony Gallagher (Telegraph); William Lewis (formerly with the Telegraph); Murdoch MacLennan (Telegraph); Manish Malhotra (Independent); Andrew Mullins (Independent); Finbarr Ronayne (Telegraph); Tim Bratton (FT – to be read); Benedict Brogan (Telegraph – to be read); Adam Cannon (Telegraph – to be read); Alison Fortescue (FT – to be read); Stefano Hatfield (Independent – to be read); Louise Hayman (Independent – to be read); Scott Henderson (FT – to be read); Ian McGregor (Telegraph – to be read); Lisa MacLeod (FT – to be read); John Mullin (Independent – to be read); Peter Oborne (Telegraph – to be read); John Ridding (FT – to be read); Arthur Wynn-Davies (Telegraph – to be read).

Wednesday 11th January: Liz Hartley (Associated Newspapers); Peter Wright (Associated Newspapers) ;Kevin Beatty (Associated Newspapers –to be read); James Welsh (Associated Newspapers –to be read).

Thursday 12th January: Paul Ashford (Northern & Shell); Richard Desmond (Northern & Shell); Peter Hill (Northern & Shell); Dawn Neesom (Northern & Shell); Nicole Patterson (Northern & Shell); Robert Sanderson (Northern & Shell); Hugh Whittow (Northern & Shell); Martin Ellice (Northern & Shell – to be read); Gareth Morgan (Northern & Shell – to be read); Martin Townsend (Northern & Shell – to be read).

Next week in Parliament

The House will next sit on Tuesday 10 January 2012. We are not aware of any relevant committee hearings this week.

On Wednesday 11 January, 3pm, Lord Storey will ask an oral question about the measures to prevent bullying on social networking sites, main chamber, House of Lords.

Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

WXY v Gewanter, heard 11-15, 18-19 July 2011 (Slade J)

Flood v Times Newspapers, heard 17 and 18 October 2011 (Supreme Court)

Cambridge v Makin, heard 3 November 2011 (Hughes, Black and Tomlinson LJJ)

McGrath v Dawkins and another, heard 10 and 11 November 2011 (HHJ Moloney QC).

Levy v. Coomber heard 9 and 16 November 2011 (HHJ Moloney QC).

Phillips v NGN, heard 28 and 29 November 2011 (Judge LCJ, Neuberger MR, Kay V-P)

El-Naschie v Macmillan, heard 11, 14, 16 to 18,  21, 22, 25, 28-30 November, 1 -2 December 2011 (Sharp J)

Hunt v Times Newspapers, heard 19 December 2011 (Eady J)

Also on Inforrm over the winter break

This week’s Round Up was compiled for Inforrm by Judith Townend, a freelance journalist and PhD researcher examining legal restraints on the media, who runs the Meeja Law blog. She is @jtownend on Twitter. Please send event listings, suggestions and tips for future round up posts to jt.townend [at] gmail [dot] com.


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