Law and Media Round Up – 12 March 2012

12 03 2012

The Mirror Group was refused permission by the Supreme Court to appeal its contempt of court conviction for coverage of Christopher Jefferies in 2011. Press Gazette reports here; the Independent reports here. It was reported that the application against the Divisional Court decision was rejected on the grounds “that it did not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court“. It also held that “this was a very clear case of contempt of court”.

The Leveson Inquiry continued into second week of module two, looking at the relationship between the press and the police. Former senior Metropolitan Police officers were questioned over their personal dealings with editors and journalists, the original 2006 investigation into phone hacking and the 2009 review conducted by then assistant commissioner John Yates, as Natalie Peck reports for Inforrm here. The Inquiry has cost almost £2 million since it was set up last summer, reports the Guardian, picking up on the latest quarterly costs disclosure, available on the official website here.

The Hacked Off campaign is calling for the public release of files from Operation Motorman, the Information Commissioner’s Office 2003 investigation into data protection breaches by newspapers. In an article on the campaign’s site, Brian Cathcart argues:

We need disclosure now, during the Leveson inquiry, because otherwise the files will be buried for ever. We need it because almost every national newspaper group is implicated and it is time they explained themselves, revealing their public interest justifications in detail where they have any. And we need it because it is inevitable that some of those 305 journalists are today in senior positions at national newspapers.”

Former NOTW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck’s blog has provoked a legal response, after he published a blog post alleging that News International general manager Will Lewis had employed a firm to tighten security at this home. Thurlbeck has since commented on his interaction with Mishcon de Reya here. Press Gazette reports that Thurlbeck was threatened with an injunction over the post and that “Thurlbeck responded to the legal letter by taking the story down and then publishing a new edited version which remains live”. The complaint is not detailed in full, but according to Press Gazette, lawyers alleged that the post included defamatory claims and invaded Lewis’ privacy. Earlier in the week, the Guardian’s Media Monkey commented on Thurlbeck’s blog post here.

As reported on Inforrm, the Daily Star on Sunday published a story on 4 March which revealed that environment minister Caroline Spelman’s son, a 17 year rugby player, had taken banned (though not illegal) substances to aid his recovery from injury. An injunction had remained in place until 4pm on 2 March 2012, pending a possible appeal by the claimant. The claimant indicated that he had decided not to pursue and appeal. The claimants’ parents released a statement on Friday 2 March. (there were two judgments – 15 February 2012; [2012] EWHC 239 (QB), 24 February 2012 ([2012] EWHC 355 (QB)). Inforrm has a case commentary by Lorna Skinner and Kirsten Sjovoll.

Last week we noted that the government’s response to the Draft Defamation Bill had garnered little media interest. Not much more commentary has been published since then, but there a few a few links to point out: Gill Phillips, the Guardian’s editorial legal director, has one of the more detailed analyses here. Phillips, in favour of reform, finds it a “considered document which reaffirms the coalition’s commitment to protecting free speech” but argues there is still some way to go. Pinsent Mason’s Out-Law.com site has a useful piece on the significance of the response for ISPs, which the government suggests could act as “liaison points” in defamation disputes.

An item on the JANET blog examines liability for blogging platforms, in light of the judgment in Tamiz v Google Inc., which suggests that there might be a third defence to liability for a web host where allegedly defamatory comments are posted. “However,” argues JANET, “the case doesn’t provide much detail on when that defence might apply“. Inforrm also published pieces on the case: one by Gevase de Wilde and another by Daithí Mac Síthigh.

The celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is suing publicist and former News of the World editor Phil Hall for allegedly selling private photographs to a newspaper, the Mirror reported last week. The Guardian has more detail about the breach of private information, breach of confidence, breach of copyright and conspiracy claims here. Judgment was reserved on the defendant’s application to strike out the claim.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

On 6 March 2012, there was a Statement in Open Court in the case of Nicola Heron v Clay Pigeon Shooting Association Ltd. This concerned an email to the defendant’s board, acting chief executive and 18 county representatives that contained false allegations about the Claimant, including allegations of bullying and lying. The Defendant apologised for the false allegations, gave undertaking not to repeat and agreed to pay damages and costs.

Journalism and the PCC

This section may need to be re-titled. The PCC is to disband and move into a “transitional phase“, “transferring its assets, liabilities and staff to a new regulatory body“. The new body will be run by the director of transition, Michael McManus (appointed in February), Jonathan Collett, the director of communications and Charlotte Dewar, head of complaints, according to HoldTheFrontPage.

In a statement, published following media reports of its closure (see the Independent, for example), the organisation said:

“The PCC wishes to make clear to the public that it is continuing to deal with complaints under the terms of the Editors’ Code of Practice during this period of transition. All existing complaints will continue to be handled by the Secretariat in the usual way, and new complaints can be made as normal.

“The PCC’s 24-hour pre-publication advice and the anti-harassment services – both praised throughout the course of the Leveson Inquiry – are also still fully operational. PCC staff are available at all times to advise members of the public further, and to offer practical, immediate assistance.”

Since last week’s round up there are a number of “resolved” PCC complaints to report: Mr Julian Assange v The Observer The Observer, clause 1, 09/03/2012; Mrs Christine Hemming v Sunday Mercury, clause 1, 08/03/2012; Mrs Carol Mlatem v South Wales Argus, clause 3, 08/03/2012; Ms Pamela Fenton v Sunday Mail, clause 1, 08/03/2012; Mr Peter Mendham v East Anglian Daily Times, clause 1, 08/03/2012; Mr Peter Mendham v Eastern Daily Press & East Anglian Daily Times, clause 1, 08/03/2012; A woman v The Daily Telegraph, clauses 6, 9, 08/03/2012; Jennie Kermode v The Spectator, clause 1, 08/03/2012.

The Tabloid Watch blog reports on a costume business owner’s complaint with a Daily Mail article which alleged she lived “her modern life dressed as her heroine Charlotte Bronte“. The complainant’s own account, which describes her negotiations with the Mail through the PCC, can be found on her blog. The Mail’s correction is here.

The BBC Trust has launched a public consultation “on a series of proposed changes to the BBC’s complaints process“, it announced here. It also confirmed plans to: “Create a corrections and clarifications page on the BBC website; Appoint a ‘Chief Complaints Editor’ within the BBC to coordinate complaints handling activity across the BBC Executive, ‘fast-tracking’ specific complaints if necessary; and Establish a guide informing people where to complain (both within the BBC and externally).”

Research & resources

Inforrm published an edited extract from Paul Tweed’s new book, Privacy and Libel Law: The Clash with Press Freedom, which will be published by Bloomsbury in March 2011.

A recent article by Anne Sy Cheung, University of Hong Kong, available on the SSRN network looks at “online shaming against those who have violated social norms”.It is entitled “Revisiting Privacy and Dignity: Online Shaming in the Global E-Village” (February 24, 2012).

In the Courts

On Monday, 5 March 2012 Bean J gave judgment in the “offer of amends” case of KC v MGN Ltd ([2012] EWHC 483 (QB)).

On 5 to 9 March 2012, the “Twitter libel” trial in the case of Cairns v Modi took place before Bean J.  The trial is continuing.

On Tuesday 6 March 2012, Slade J handed down the long awaited judgment in the privacy case of XXY v Gewanter ([2012] EWHC 496 (QB)). A summary is available here (PDF). Slade J continued the interim injunctions and found: “unless restrained, the Third Defendant is likely to resume publication of or threatening to publish private and confidential information of the Claimant and thereby to continue to harass her. The interim injunctions will continue in place pending a hearing to consider the terms of orders consequential upon this judgment” (para 133).

On Wednesday 7 March 2012, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights heard the application in Animal Defenders International v United Kingdom.Inforrm had a Case Preview and the Applicant’s Counsel’s Speech from the hearing.On the same day Tugendhat J heard an appeal in the case of Weston v Bates.  Judgment was reserved.

On Friday 9 March 2012, Eady J heard another application to amend the defence in the case of Hunt v Times Newspapers. The application was adjourned part heard to Monday 12 March 2012.

Events

15 March 2012, “The Alternative Libel Project final report launch “ 6.30-8.30pm, Great Hall, Inner Temple

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.

28 March 2012, “Index Freedom of Expression Awards 2012“, London

Know of any media law events happening in March or April? Let Inforrm know: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

A post on the Canadian Advertising & Marketing Law site discusses a recent defamation case in the Canadian Supreme Court, concerning emails and letters following a failed business relationship. In Tjelta v. Wang (2012 BCSC 299) the plaintiff was awarded damages of $20,000.

In Spain, Barcelona football club has settled a defamation action against the radio station Cadena COPE over “false doping allegations“. It accepted a €200,000 (US$265,000) settlement, as reported by AFP here.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on various blogging rows in Singapore, reporting on recent “sharp legal warnings to dissenting blogs” by lawyers acting for political figures, including the Prime Minister. A letter in response to the piece claims thatpolitical cases have typically resulted in much higher damages than in non-political cases“.

Next week in the courts

On Monday 12 March 2012, Eady J will conclude the hearing of the second application to amend the defence in the case of Hunt v Times Newspapers. The application was adjourned part heard from Friday 9 March 2012.

The trial in Cairns v Modi will continue before Bean J.  We understand that the time estimate has no increased from 7 days to 10 to 12 days.

On Monday Sharp J will give judgment in the case of British Pregnancy Advisory Service v The person using the alias “Pablo Escobar” – the case relating to the hacking of the claimant’s website.  The hacker removed around 10,000 database records containing the personal details of women who had registered with the claimant’s site.  On Saturday 10 March 2012 he pleaded guilty to offences under the Computer Misuse Act at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

On the same day Tugendhat J will hear applications for costs in the case of Tesla Motors v BBC.

On 13 or 14 March 2012, there will be an application to the Court of Appeal in the case of Iqbal v Dean Manson

On 14 March 2012, Tugendhat J will hand down judgment in Citation PLC v Ellis Whittam Ltd, (heard 2 March 2012).

Next week at the Leveson Inquiry

Monday 12 March, 10am-4.30pm: Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick (MPS);
Sir Dennis O’Connor (HM Inspectorate of Constabulary)

Tuesday 13 March, 10am-4.30pm: Sara Cheesley (Senior Information Officer, MPS); Dick Fedorcio (Director of Communications, MPS)

Wednesday 14 March, 10am-4.30pm: Jeff Edwards (Crime Reporters Association); Sandra Laville (Guardian); Paul Peachey (Independent); Jonathan Ungoed- Thomas (Times). To be read: Mark Hughes (Daily Telegraph)

Thursday 15 March, 10am-4.30pm: Mike Sullivan (The Sun); Stephen Wright (Daily Mail)

Next week in Parliament

Monday 12 March, 2pm, Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions. Private Meeting. Location: The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.

Wednesday 14 March, 10.30am, Justice select committee. Subject: Post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Witness(es): Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner; and Graham Smith, Deputy Information Commissioner, Information Commissioner’s Office. Location: The Grimond Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons.

Thursday 15 March, 11am, Oral Questions, Amending the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Location: Main Chamber, House of Lords.

Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

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)

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).

Weston v Bates, heard 7 March 2012 (Tugendhat 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 suggestions, tips and event listings for inclusion in future round ups to jt.townend@gmail.com.


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12 03 2012
jtownend

Reblogged this on Media law and ethics.

19 03 2012
Law and Media Round Up – 19 March 2012 « Inforrm's Blog

[…] Press Gazette reported that former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck was also arrested and “questioned for six hours after a posting on his blog which revealed News Corp general manager Will Lewis’s home address”. Thurlbeck commented on events on his blog here. We mentioned his blog post about Lewis in last week’s round-up. […]

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