On Sunday it was reported that the Scottish lawyer Paul McBride QC, 47, has died in his sleep on a visit to Pakistan. At age 35, he was appointed the youngest ever QC in the UK. Last year he represented Gail Sheridan, who was acquitted of perjury. Two men are currently on trial at the high court in Glasgow accused of conspiring to murder McBride, the Celtic football club manager Neil Lennon and former MSP Trish Godman by sending improvised explosive devices to them in 2011. The defendants all deny all charges against them. STV has a report on McBride’s death here.
In Scotland, bloggers have been covering the trial and other Scottish court proceedings, during the ‘Open Justice Week’ project. One of the latest posts includes an account of covering the First-Tier Tribunal for Immigration and Asylum. Its author, Tristan Stewart-Robertson describes: “The clerk went and asked a handful of clients for upcoming hearings if they would mind a reporter in the room, and all objected“. He was granted access by the judge, however. You can view some of the tweets from Open Justice Week by replaying this CoverItLive viewer here.
An event about open justice in the digital age at City University London happened to coincide with the ‘Open Justice Week’ initiative. There are reports on the CLJJ blog (including audio from the event), the UK Human Rights Blog, George Brock’s blog and Talk About Local [disclosure: I organised the event!]. Speakers included Geoffrey Robertson QC, Hugh Tomlinson QC, PA Media Lawyer editor Mike Dodd and the journalist Heather Brooke. A set of papers will be published later in the spring.
In Cardiff, meanwhile, a symposium on 1 March discussed the introduction of television cameras in courts, to mark the launch of a new Research Centre within the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, which will look at public relations and global communications issues. Professor Duncan Bloy, Melanie Riley (Bell Yard), Simon Bucks (Associate Editor Sky News) and Angus McBride (Kingsley Napley) debated whether “conveying the complexities of legal cases within the compressed timeframe of mainstream television news is possible without the risk of sensationalism by the media“. [There is an excellent paper on the topic by Edward Thompson in the most recent issue of the Journal of Media Law].
The Leveson Inquiry moved into its second module, examining the relationship between police and media. As Natalie Peck reports for Inforrm here, “it was, in many ways, the most revealing week of the Inquiry so far“, with witnesses including Sue Akers, Detective Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Jacqui Hames, a former Met police officer and presenter of Crimewatch and John Yates, former Met assistant commissioner.
Outside the courtroom, the Metropolitan Police’s loan of the now deceased police horse, Raisa, to Rebekah Brooks caught the national media’s attention and David Cameron’s – forcibly, during an EU Summit press conference in Brussels. According to Press Gazette, Lord Justice Leveson was concerned by how the story leaked, although he did not directly refer to the horse: “I am concerned to hear that over the last two days requests have been made to the Metropolitan Police for confirmation of details which suggest that there has been prior disclosure of the statements of some of the witnesses who are due to give evidence to this inquiry“.
Meanwhile, the government’s response to the draft defamation bill, released on 29 February, did not get much coverage. The Libel Reform campaign is dissatisfied with the statement and calls for an effective statutory public interest defence. Additionally, the campaign said it “look[s] forward to discussing the Government’s proposals on providing greater protection for online intermediaries over coming weeks”.
The Inforrm blog has its busiest month of blog traffic ever, as noted here.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in Open Court.
Journalism and the PCC
Hugh Tomlinson QC launched his proposal for a ‘Media Standards Authority’ at a debate hosted by the Hacked Off campaign in the House of Commons last week. He advocates an “independent voluntary body with incentives for publishers to join, with a statutory underpinning,” as Inforrm reported here.
There are no new adjudicated cases to report, but the PCC has published three new “resolved” cases here, all involving local newspapers: Mickey Bradshaw v Selby Times (Clause 1) 02/03/2012; Miss Charlene Franklin v Birmingham Mail (Clause 1, 3) 01/03/2012; Mr Kenneth Basquil v Reading Evening Post (Clause 1) 27/02/2012.
Research & resources
David Allen Green has moved his ‘Jack of Kent blog’ to a new website, which can be found here.
On HoldtheFrontPage, Sarah Branthwaite of Foot Anstey sets out key points from Eady J’s recent judgment in Hunt v Times Newspapers ( EWHC 110 (QB)). She argues it stands “as a useful reminder of where the law stands” and “helps to clarify what will and will not be allowed in attempts to defend libel claims by way of justification and/or the Reynolds defence of responsible journalism“.
In the Courts
On Monday 27 February 2012, there was a further case management conference in the “Voicemail Interception” litigation before Vos J. Directions were given for the future conduct of the 16 new cases issued so far (with, it was said, more than 150 waiting in the wings).
Later that day, Vos J gave judgment on the application by the Guardian for access to Court documents ( EWHC 397 (Ch)). The judge ordered that the Guardian should be provided with copies of the documents sought with a limited number of redactions made to the Generic Particulars of Claim and Generic Admissions. The specific names of journalists and executives would also be replaced by ciphers.
On the same day Bean J heard the “offer of amends” case of KC v MGN Ltd – a claim by the natural father of “Baby P” wrongly accused in The People of being a sex offender convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl. Judgment was reserved and will be handed down on 5 March 2012. There was a BBC News report about the case.
On Wednesday 29 February and Thursday 1 March 2012, there was an application in the case of Qema v NGN Ltd before Sharp J. Judgment was reserved.
On Friday 2 March 2012, Tugendhat J gave written judgment in Giggs v NGN ( EWHC 431 (QB)), following a hearing last month. Media coverage of the decision was widespread (in keeping with the judge’s opening comment, “There can be few people in England and Wales who have not heard of this litigation“). Tugendhat J struck out the case and refused Giggs relief following breaches of the rules of court. Since Imogen Thomas, one of the defendants, had given an undertaking “not to disclose or cause or permit another to disclose any Confidential Information (as defined …) to any third party“, Tugendhat J found that Giggs had “achieved the second of the two main things that he set out to achieve in this action” [an undertaking equivalent to an injunction]. The judge added, however, that it “can hardly be said to represent a victory for NGN“.
On the same day Eady J handed down judgment in Tamiz v Google, ( EWHC 449 (QB)). It was held that “Blogger.com” was not liable for the publication of defamatory material – it was “purely passive wall” with no responsibility for internet “graffiti” no matter how offensive or libellous. The case was extensively covered in the press, for example, in the Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Guardian. Inforrm will publish a case comment later in the week.
There was also an application in the case of Citation PLC v Ellis Whittam Ltd heard by Tugendhat J. Judgment was reserved.
8 March 2012, “The Consent of the Networked”, RSA
22 March 2012, “Nominent Annual UK Internet Policy Forum” Park Plaza, Westminster Bridge, London.
23 March 2012, “Butterworths’ IP and Media in the Digital Age”, London.
Know of any media law events happening in March or April? Let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
As noted by Inforrm here, the Law Commission of New Zealand is undertaking a review of the current regulatory regime for news media with respect to its adequacy in catering for new and emerging forms of news media – sometimes referred to as the “new media”. It published a comprehensive “Issues Paper” [Word doc] for consultation on 12 December 2011.
In the recent case of Tuşalp v. Turkey, the European Court considered whether two defamation actions taken by the Prime Minister of Turkey against a journalist for protection of his personality rights were compatible with Article 10 of the European Convention. Dirk Voorhoof and Rónán Ó Fathaigh comment on the case here.
In Ireland, a 75-year-old golfer is suing his former golf club, the club’s then handicap secretary and the Golf Union of Ireland for defamation, claiming that by lowering his handicap the club has damaged his reputation. The Score has a report on Talbot v Hermitage Golf Club & Ors here. The trial concluded at the end of February and a judgment is awaited. The club’s legal costs could stand at €200,000 with the Union’s GUI’s close to €300,000, the Leman Solicitors blog suggests. The Irish Independent reported here.
In Tjelta v. Wang, 2012 BCS 299 the plaintiff alleged that the defendant sent several defamatory emails and letters to various recipients, including the plaintiff’s friends, family members, neighbours, business associates and investors, including allegations that the plaintiff was dishonest and a “blood sucker”. The defence of justification was rejected and the judge awarded damages of Can$20,000.
In another Canadian case, the mining company, Taseko Mines Ltd, has filed a defamation claim in British Columbia Supreme Court against an environmental group, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, regarding claims about its “New Prosperity” gold and copper project. CTV News has a report here.
Next week in the courts
On Monday, 5 March 2012 Bean J will give judgment in the “offer of amends” case of KC v MGN Ltd (which, as noted above, was heard last Monday).
He will then hear the “Twitter libel” trial in Cairns v Modi – the second libel trial of the year. The trial is estimated to last 7 days.
On Wednesday 7 March 2012 there will be an application in the case of Weston v Bates.
Next week at the Leveson Inquiry
Monday 5 February, 10.00am-4.30pm: Roger Baker (HM Inspectorate of Constabulary); Elizabeth Filkin; Sir Paul Stephenson (former MPS).
Tuesday 6 February, 10.00am-4.30pm: Lord Condon (former MPS); Chief Constable Lynne Owens (Surrey Police and former MPS); Lord Stevens (former MPS).
Wednesday 7 February, 10.00am-4.30pm: Lord Blair (former MPS); Tim Godwin (former MPS); Bob Quick (former MPS).
Next week in Parliament
Monday 5 March, 2pm, Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions,Subject: Private Meeting. Location: The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.
Wednesday 7 March, 3pm, Oral Questions, Ensuring media plurality in the UK – Lord Fowler, Main Chamber, House of Lords.
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)
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)
Woodrow v Johansson, heard 19 January 2012 (HHJ Parkes QC)
Ashcroft v Foley heard 1 and 2 February 2012, (Pill and Elias LJJ and Sharp J)
WXY v Gewanter & ors, heard 3 February 2012 (Slade J)
R (Guardian News and Media Limited) v City of Westminster Magistrates Court, heard 7 Feburary 2012 (Master of the Rolls, Hooper and Toulson LJJ).
Chambers v DPP, heard 8 February 2012 (Gross LJ and Irwin J)
Qema v NGN Ltd heard 29 February and 1 March 2012 (Sharp J).
Citation PLC v Ellis Whittam Ltd, heard 2 March 2012 (Tugendhat J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- Leveson: Brooks’ prophecy comes true – Steven Heffer
- Media, policing and politics: the business of “holding others to account”, Part 1 – Colin Sumner
- Can Murdoch’s Sun on Sunday survive its association with this tarnished brand? – Joan Smith
- The triple betrayal of Jacqui Hames – Martin Moore
- Wikileaks: Lessons for Press Policy and Regulation – Charlie Beckett
- News: James Murdoch resigns from News International – Laura Sandwell
- Teflon Rupert escapes the Fred the Shred treatment – Brian Cathcart
- When is being in public, private? – David Rolph
- A load of hype? The phone hacking scandal may be bigger than we thought – Brian Cathcart
- Freedom of the press and statutory regulation – lessons from Finland?
- The police knew it all in 2006 but they hid their knowledge. Why? – Brian Cathcart
- Grand Chamber Seeks to Clarify Balancing of Article 10 and Article 8 – Rónán Ó Fathaigh
- Case Law: Sugar v BBC, battle for the Balen Report results in bitter sweet BBC victory – Sara Mansoori and Claire Darwin
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.