Law and Media Round Up – 6 February 2012

6 02 2012

Former MSP Tommy Sheridan was freed from prison last week, after serving a year of his three-year sentence for perjury committed during his libel case against News of the World. According to his lawyer, a ban on speaking to the media was lifted by the Scottish prison service. Sheridan is now contemplating his next steps, reported The Herald.

The Independent newspaper is currently defending a libel case against Lord Ashcroft over articles published in November 2009 about business in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Court of Appeal last week heard two days of argument on the grounds the Independent can use to defend its case, as the newspaper reported here. Judgment was reserved.

Lord Ashcroft’s role in the company Johnston International came under scrutiny in a BBC Panorama programme last week, providing information its reporter thought could be useful to the Independent. The Court of Appeal ruled that the Panorama evidence about Lord Ashcroft was inadmissible on the appeal, but had to be the subject of an application to a first instance judge (details below). The Guardian reports on the case in a longer article about Lord Ashcroft and his connection to a “paradise island business empire” here.

The ninth week of the Leveson Inquiry heard from the PCC past and present, other regulators, private investigators, mobile phone security representatives and Baroness Sheila Hollins, who has personal experience of press intrusion – as the mother of Abigail Witchells, who was left paralysed from the neck down after being stabbed in the neck in 2005. Inforrm has a report summarising the week’s evidence by Natalie Peck here.

A local weekly newspaper, the Hereford Times, intends to appeal Telford Magistrates’ Court’s decision to protect the identity of a driver who crashed a military van into the side of a house, when twice over the legal alcohol limit for driving. The reporting restriction followed a successful application by the Ministry of Defence to anonymise the 29 year old defendant’s name. HoldTheFrontPage reported on the Hereford Times’ challenge here.

The Central News agency has complained about a coroner’s refusal to give out the addresses of the deceased, saying it inhibits their news coverage. The Southwark coroner said he did not respect the assertion “that without the full address of the deceased the case cannot be covered,” as Press Gazette reports here. It adds: “Both the Ministry of Justice and Southwark Council told Press Gazette they had no power to force the coroner to make the information available to reporters”.

PA Media Lawyer reports that the Attorney General is investigating the case of a Guardian journalist who reportedly tweeted the name of a juror and detail of the legal argument given in the absence of the jury during the trial of Harry Redknapp. The Daily Mail reported the development on 28 January. According to the Mail and PA Media Lawyer, the Guardian declined to comment.

An ‘open justice week‘ will be held from Monday 27 February, in a bid to get “writers, legal professionals and members of the public to collaborate using social media to share their experiences of a week in the life of the legal system“. The Guardian supported the project in an editorial last week. The projects organisers, James Doleman, of the Tommy Sheridan trial blog, and the Scottish Press Club and Glasgow court reporter Cristiana Theodoli, said the project has started in Scotland, but will be rolled out more widely too. Open Justice UK can be found on Facebook here and on Twitter: @oj_UK.

Last week, we reported on the Bar Standards Board’s disbarring of barrister David Harris, who tweeted as @geeklawyer. The BSB’s published decision can now be found here. Andrew Sharpe has since written an excellent blog post about the case and Twitter guidelines, discussing “the danger … that lawyers may consider the risks of going over the line are too great, and so withdraw from public debate; the so-called chilling effect“.

Sharpe’s post also references the so-called “Twitter joke trial”, in which Paul Chambers was prosecuted for a tweet about blowing up Doncaster Airport in January 2010. Sharpe considers that section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 “was used completely inappropriately to prosecute [Paul] Chambers“. As noted below, the Administrative Court will hear the appeal in the case of R (Chambers) v DPP on Wednesday.

The Patents County Court has ruled that a charity infringed a photographer’s copyright when they used his images on its website. Although the charity was mistakenly told by its design agency that the photographs were Crown copyright, this did not provide a defence. The judge said: “The fact that the defendant may have thought that it had permission to use the images is not a defence to infringement … the policy of the law is that if there was in fact no permission, an infringement has occurred even if the person genuinely thought they had permission.” Swan Turton has a report here, as does PA Media Lawyer (subscription required).

HoldtheFrontPage’s latest legal column rounds up the latest views on the government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, including the Law Society’s objections to proposals to change “no win no fee” arrangements. The House of Lords committee discussion on 30 January and 1 February can be found here and here, respectively [the bill’s progress can be tracked here].

Research and resources

Inforrm published a list of recent academic articles about media law here. If you would like to add any articles, please contact Judith Townend, via jt.townend@gmail.com, and the post will be updated again this week.

An American report from November 2011 examines ‘Jurors’ Use of Social Media During Trials and Deliberations‘. Meghan Dunn’s report to the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management can be found online here.

Our attention has also been drawn to this European Court of Human Rights report, ‘Internet: case-law of the European Court of Human Rights‘ (2011), available for download here.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

There was an interesting apology in the Times newspaper on Saturday 4 February, to a financial adviser, JP Loveland of Hanover de Broke, for three articles about financial “mis-selling” – one published in 2008, two in 2010. It said it was happy to clarify that “although Mr Loveland received a commission from the transactions, neither he nor his firm were criticised or found guilty of mis-selling by the Financial Ombudsman. We are happy to make the position clear and apologise to Mr Loveland“.

Journalism and the PCC

The industry blog FleetStreetBlues praises The Sunday Times for its “lengthy, well-researched and no doubt heavily-legalled investigation” into Toyota car dealerships. “[I]f there’s one thing British journalism is short of at the moment, it’s ballsy investigations into legally tough, everyday topics,” FSB comments.

In chuckling at the BBC for its apparent use of a photo sent in by one ‘Shanda Lear’, the Daily Mail appears to have scored its own blooper, in a story still available at this link. It seems the BBC did not air such an image and the screenshot was in fact a Photoshopped image published by Jody Kirton. TabloidWatch has the details here. Craig Silverman’s RegretTheError blog has even more here.

There are no newly adjudicated PCC decisions to report. “Resolved” complaints include:

Dr Thomas Reichhelm v The Daily Telegraph, Clause 1, 03/02/2012; Mr Alan Shannon v The Herald (Glasgow), Clause 1, 02/02/2012; Ms Margaret Deighan v East Kilbride News, Clause 1, 02/02/2012; Stephanie Bellemere v Sunday Mirror, Clauses 1 and 3, 01/02/2012; Stephanie Bellemere v Daily Mail, Clauses 1 and 3, 01/02/2012; Peter Lennon v Evening Gazette, Clause 1, 01/02/2012; Councillor Steffi Sutters v Wandsworth Guardian, Clause 1, 01/02/2012.

Mr Gervase Duffield v The Independent, Clause 1, 01/02/2012; Ms Hayley Quinn v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 01/02/2012; Mr Alex Scott v The Times, Clause 1, 01/02/2012; Mr Alex Scott and Mr James Elliott v The Sun, Clause 1, 01/02/2012; Mrs Jane Clarke v Northwich Guardian, Clause 5, 01/02/2012; Mr Peter Vince-Lindsay v Daily Mail, Clause 1 01/02/2012.

Mr & Mrs O’Neill through Karen Muir v Evening Standard, Clauses 1 and 5, 01/02/2012; Mr Indra Sarkar v Grimsby Evening Telegraph, Clause 1, 01/02/2012; Ms Abigail Austen v Daily Record, Clauses 1 and 3, 31/01/2012; Mr Alan Shannon v Cumnock Chronicle, Clause 1, 30/01/2012; Vikki Little v Cheddar Valley Gazette, Clause 1, 30/01/2012.

In the Courts

On Monday 30 January 2012 Eady J handed down judgment in Hunt v Times Newspapers ([2012] EWHC 110 (QB)) striking out substantial parts of the Amended Defence of Times Newspapers.

On Tuesday 31 January 2012, Tugendhat J heard the adjournedCMC in Kim & anr v Tong & ors (part heard from 7 October 2011) and gave ex tempore rulings.

On Wednesday 1 February 2012, judgment was handed down in the cases of Phillips v NGN and Coogan v NGN, (heard 28 and 29 November 2011). The appeals by Glenn Mulcaire were dismissed. We had a case comment about the case.

On the same date Hooper LJ dismissed the oral application for permission to appeal against the decision of Sharp J in the case of Diwany v The Ministry of Justice and the Police Norway ([2011] EWHC 2077 (QB)).

The Court of Appeal (Pill and Elias LJJ and Sharp J) heard the appeal against the decision of Eady J in Ashcroft v Foley ([2011] EWHC 1710 (QB)), as reported above. On the first day Pill LJ ruled that the evidence from the recent “Panorama” programme about Lord Ashcroft was inadmissible on the appeal but had to be the subject of an application to a first instance judge. There were reports of the first and second days of the hearing in the “Independent”. Judgment was reserved.

The second Pre-Trial Review in the voicemail interception litigation which was due to be heard on Friday 3 February 2012 by Vos J was adjourned to Wednesday 8 February 2012.

Events

7 February 2012, The Media Society ‘The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism at the crossroads’.

8 February 2012, UCL/Bindmans Annual Debate ‘Freedom of the Press versus Privacy Rights: Time for Parliament to draw the line?’

28 February 2012, 1pm, ‘Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom‘ – Rebecca MacKinnon, at Polis, LSE, Clement House Room 302 (Third Floor), Clement House, 99 Aldwych.

29 February 2012, 9am-2pm. ‘Justice Wide Open‘. Half-day seminar on legal knowledge in a digital age, with speakers including Geoffrey Robertson QC, Hugh Tomlinson QC, Heather Brooke, Mike Dodd and Adam Wagner. City University London.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

In Liu v The Age Company Limited [2012] NSWSC 12 McCullum J ordered three journalists to reveal to a Chinese-Australian businesswoman their confidential sources for a series of stories on her relationship with a federal Labor MP. The Age said it would appeal the decision. There was a news report in the “Age”.

In Waterhouse v The Age Company Ltd & Ors [2012] NSWSC 9 Nicholas J dismissed an application by the plaintiff to amend his statement of claim by adopting, or “pleading back”, the contextual imputations pleaded by the defendants in support of the defence of contextual truth.

The new chairman of the Indian Press Council and former Supreme Court judge, Markandey Katju (@mark_katju), has joined Twitter “to make his views and opinions known and also clarify his statementsas reported by Indian Express.

In HMA v David Craig, a man has been convicted of “internet sectarianism” in Glasgow Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to posting offensive messages about the Celtic football manager Neil Lennon. “He had also uploaded an image of Celtic manager Neil Lennon which had been altered to simulate him having been shot a number of times,” Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service reported.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has ruled that the conviction of a journalist for criminal libel in the Philippines violated his right to free expression, as reported by the International Press Institute here. The Manila Times has a commentary here.

Next week in the courts

On Monday 6 February 2012, Tugendhat J will hear a Case Management Conference in the libel case of Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police.

On Tuesday 7 February 2012 the Court of Appeal (Master of the Rolls, Hooper and Toulson LJJ) will hear the appeal in R (Guardian News and Media Limited) v City of Westminster Magistrates Court. Inforrm had a comment on the original decision.

On the same date there will be a directions hearing in the “phone hacking” judicial review case, R (Bryant) v Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

On Wednesday 8 February 2012 the Administrative Court (Gross LJ and Irwin J) will hear the appeal in the case of R (Chambers) v DPP – the so-called “Twitter joke” case. The copy of the Case Stated by Doncaster Crown Court can be found here.  There is a Twitter hashtag #twitterjoketrial.

On the same day there will another Pre-Trial Review in the voicemail interception litigation before Vos J.

Next week at the Leveson Inquiry

Monday 6th February, 10:00 – 16:30: DAC Sue Akers (MPS); Paul Dacre (Associated Newspapers); Nick Owens; Dan Wootton; Jemima Khan – to be read.

Tuesday 7th February, 10:00 – 16:30: Baroness Buscombe (PCC); Colin Crowell (Twitter); James Harding; Dominic Mohan; Gary Morgan (Splash); Neil Turner (The BPPA); Ronald Zinc (Bing); Simon Citron (Yahoo) – to be read.

Wednesday 8th February, 10:00 – 16:30: Helen Belcher (Transmedia Watch); Carla Buzasi (Huffington Post); Martin Moore (Media Standards Trust); Will Moy (Full Fact); Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes); Keir Starmer (Director of Public Prosecutions); Pam Surphlis (SAMM NI).

Thursday 9th February, 10:00 – 16:30: Max Clifford; Ian Edmondson; Darryn Lyons (Big Pictures); tbc (NUJ).

Next week in Parliament

Monday 6 February, 2.15pm. Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions. Witness(es): Alex Hall and Charlotte Harris, Partner, Mischon de Reya Solicitors, Location: The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.

Tuesday 7 February, 11am. House of Commons Home Affairs select committee. Subject: Private Investigators. Witness(es): Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner; Tony Imossi, President, Association of British Investigators, Ian Hopkins, Board Member and Past President, Institute of Professional Investigators, and Ian Withers, Governing Council Member, World Association of Professional Investigators (at 11.30 a.m.); Commander Peter Spindler, and Roy Clark QPM, retired Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police (at 12.15 p.m.). Location: The Grimond Room, Portcullis House

Tuesday 7 February 2.40pm. Joint Committee on Human Rights, Subject: The Justice and Security Green Paper. Witness(es): Joshua Rozenberg; Ian Cobain; Jan Clements (at 3.20pm); Dr Lawrence McNamara, Location: Committee Room 5, Palace of Westminster.

Wednesday 8 February, 11am – 11.30am. Broadcasting of court proceedings – Mr John Whittingdale. Location: Westminster Hall.

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).

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

Lord Ballyedmond & anr v Trimble, heard 18 January 2012 (Tugendhat J)

Woodrow v Johansson, heard 19 January 2012 (HHJ Parkes QC)

Singh v Singh, heard 24 and 25 January 2012 (HHJ Parkes QC)

Rothschild v Associated Newspapers, heard 23-26 January 2012 (Tugendhat J)

Ashcroft v Foley heard 1 and 2 February 2012, (Pill and Elias LJJ and Sharp J)

Also on Inforrm last week

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 material (eg. event listings and article suggestions) for inclusion in future round up posts to jt.townend@gmail.com.


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