It was the thirteenth week of evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. As Natalie Peck reported for Inforrm here, the Inquiry heard from former Times in-house lawyer, Alastair Brett, crime reporters and senior figures from the Metropolitan Police force, including head of press Dick Fedorcio.
The “Hacked Off” campaign called for the release of the Operation Motorman files. Media Standards Trust director and campaign co-founder Martin Moore argued that the Leveson Inquiry “urgently needs to break open the Motorman files – not least because they might reveal how phone hacking really worked” in a post here. In another Inforrm post, Gevase de Wilde reported on the Home Affairs Select Committee hearings on the activities of private investigators, as part of an inquiry set up in 2011.
Key police developments during the week included the arrest of former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and her husband, the racehorse trainer, Charlie Brooks, who were among six new Operation Weeting arrests, as reported by Inforrm here. Metropolitan Police officers arrested five men and one woman on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice contrary to the Criminal Law Act 1977.
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.
The Ministry of Justice has published its first statistical report [PDF] on privacy injunctions, covering the period August to December 2011. Inforrm looked at the data alongside known cases in this post and suggested that more detail be given about the individual cases and, insofar as they are the subject of public judgments, these should be identified. The RPC Privacy Blog reported on the release here.
Libel enjoyed a little more attention this week, as Index on Censorship and English PEN launched its final report of the Alternative Libel Project at London’s Inner Temple on 15 March. Index on Censorship reported on the launch here; Journalism.co.uk has a report of the ADR recommendations here. The latter also reported on Lord McNally’s comments to the Westminster Legal Policy Forum the day of the report’s launch: “while [McNally] could not “anticipate” the contents of the Queen’s Speech in May … he “would be extremely disappointed if a commitment to legislate on defamation was not part of it”.
On 13 March, Julian Huppert MP asked the justice secretary Kenneth Clarke about protection for academics and scientists in its draft defamation bill. Clarke answered that the government “propose[s] that peer-reviewed research should be protected and are now considering the draft of the final Bill in the light of the Joint Committee’s report”. Clarke said he would “not anticipate the Queen’s Speech, but if we can include a defamation Bill, one of its principal objectives will be to deal with the very serious problem that the hon. Gentleman has identified“. The Independent has a short report here and the Hansard transcript is here.
Mr Justice Ouseley has granted permission for three primary news broadcasters, BBC, ITN and Sky News, to seek judicial review over a Chelmsford court decision (Essex Police v Jason Parkinson & Ors CCC No: U2012 0058) that they should give police footage of the Dale Farm eviction in Essex, which was not broadcast. The police production order was issued in February 2012, as reported by Journalism.co.uk here. The NUJ comments on the latest decision here.
Cheryl Cole is suing IPC Media, publisher of Now magazine, for defamation following a story which claimed she was involved in a “secret romance“, as Press Gazette reports here. In a separate libel claim, the football agent Paolo Vernazza and his ex-wife Sapphira, are suing the People newspaper over a story about Cole and her former husband, Ashley Cole, in a defamation and privacy claim. Press Gazette’s report on the latter action is here.
We have flagged up copyright concerns about the new social networking and content sharing site Pinterest in a previous round up. Pinterest has now released a statement on its copyright policy, as reported by the Washington Post here. The company says the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) “provides safe harbors” for its type of platform.
Meanwhile, “we need to redefine what ‘copy’ means,” argues William Patry in his new book ‘How to Fix Copyright’. Patry is speaking at several upcoming events in London in April (see Events, below).
Index on Censorship reports that while you can read Nick Cohen’s latest book, ‘You Can’t Read This Book’, you may not be able to read his tweets, following unexplained suspensions of his account. His latest account, @nickcohen4, seems to be back in action again at the time of writing.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
On 12 March 2012, there was a Statement in Open Court in the case of McFadden v News Group Newspapers Ltd. There was a report of the statement in the Guardian.
Journalism and regulation
Although the PCC is entering a “transitional phase“, a new public commissioner has been appointed to the body, Charles Anson, a former press Secretary to the Queen, who once worked in the press offices of James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher.
There have been three resolved PCC cases since last week: A woman vs Daily Mail, Clause 1, 15/03/2012; Mr Simon Plosker vs Financial Times, Clause 1, 14/03/2012; Christine Grahame MSP v Scottish Daily Mail, Clause 1, 12/03/2012. There are no new adjudications to report.
The Observer’s readers’ editor, Stephen Pritchard, has written an interesting piece on interpreting and reporting opinion polls, which links to this journalists’ guide on the British Polling Council’s site.
The BBC Radio presenter Richard Bacon has made a new documentary ‘The Anti-Social Network'; (Monday, BBC3, 9pm) in which he investigates online “trolls”, following his own experiences of internet abuse over the past two years. The Radio Times has a feature about the programme here.
A new play “Enquirer”, a collaboration between the National Theatre of Scotland and the London Review of Books, about the crisis in newspaper journalism will open in Glasgow in April. According to the Stage, it will transfer to London in the autumn and is based on interviews with “leading figures” in the newspaper industry.
Research & resources
The Law, Terrorism and the Right to Know project at University of Reading has set up a page tracking developments and commentary around the government’s Justice and Security Green Paper, which proposes legislation that will change how evidence is managed in civil proceedings and inquests, prompting concerns about secret legal hearings.
As noted above, English PEN and Index on Censorship have published the Alternative Libel Project’s final report “on the problems created by defamation procedure with recommendations for change”. It is available to download at this link.
Barron, Anne, ‘Graduated Response’ à L’Anglaise: Online Copyright Infringement and the Digital Economy Act (U.K.) 2010 (December 19, 2011). Journal of Media Law, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 305-347, December 2011 . Available at SSRN
Tan, David, The Reynolds Privilege in a Neo-Confucianist Communitarian Democracy: Reinvigorating Freedom of Political Communication In Singapore (December 31, 2011). Singapore Journal of Legal Studies, pp. 456-485, December 2011. Available at SSRN.
In the Courts
On Monday 12 March 2012, Eady J concluded the hearing of the second application to re-amend the defence in the case of Hunt v Times Newspapers. Judgment was reserved.
The trial in Cairns v Modi continued before Bean J on 12, 14 and 16 March when it concluded, with judgment being reserved. Inforrm will publish a report on the trial shortly.
On Monday 12 March 2012 Sharp J gave a brief 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 ( EWHC 572 (QB)).
On 13 March 2012, Tugendhat J heard an application in Iqbal v Mansoor & ors and gave an ex tempore judgment.
On 13 March 2012, Bean J granted an injunction in the case of BUQ v HRE. There was a further hearing before Tugendhat J on 16 March 2012.
On 14 March 2012, Tugendhat J handed down judgment in Citation PLC v Ellis Whittam Ltd, ( EWHC 549 (QB))
On 15 March 2012 Tugendhat J gave judgment in Weston v Bates ( EWHC 590 (QB))
19 March 2012, 6pm: The Data Protection Act 1998 and Personal Privacy, Philip Coppel QC, Organised by the Statute Law Society with the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. IALS, London.
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.
23 March 2012, 9:00-16:00, POLIS International Journalism Conference, London School of Economics.
26 March 2012, 18:30: Panel debate – The best of times or worst of times? What lessons can we learn from Leveson and the hacking scandal? City University London.
28 March 2012, “Index Freedom of Expression Awards 2012“, London.
2 April 2012, 6.30pm, William Patry: “What Would an Evidence-Based Copyright Law Look Like?”, London School of Economics.
Tuesday 3 April 2012, 6 – 7pm, IBIL Seminar What would leadership in copyright policy look like? Speaker: William F Patry (Chief Copyright Counsel, Google Inc.) Chair: The Rt Hon Prof. Sir Robin Jacob. UCL, London.
25 April 2012: IBC Legal’s 19th Annual, Defamation & Privacy 2012, Crowne Plaza Hotel London – The City.
Know of any media law events happening in March or April? Please let Inforrm know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
On 9 March 2012 the Court of Appeal of British Columbia gave judgment in the case of Lawson v. Baines 2012 BCCA 117. The Court dismissed the defendants’ appeal against the judge’s conclusions that the words complained of were defamatory (2011 BCSC 326).
On 9 March 2012 the High Court of Australia refused special leave to appeal in the case of Snedden v Nationwide News Pty Ltd.
In Trkulja v Yahoo! Inc LLC & Anor  VSC 88, the Supreme Court of Victoria awarded the plaintiff damages of Aus$225,000 over an article published by the defendants through the “Yahoo! 7” search service on a website entitled “Melbourne Crime”.
In Dye v Commonwealth Securities Limited  FCA 242 dismissed a claim for libel and sexual harassment brought by a former bank employee. The judge described the plaintiff’s account as “false and venomous“, “without any factual foundation or legal substance“, comparing it to a “novel“. There were news reports of the case in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian.
A new report to the Australian minister for broadband, communications and digital economy, by Ray Finkelstein [PDF link], proposes a “news media council”. In a piece re-published on Inforrm, Richard Ackland, publisher of Law Press of Australia and editor of the online law journal Justinian, discusses the report’s major recommendations.
In Coleman v. Mirror Group Newspapers  IESC 20 the Supreme Court in Ireland held that the Irish courts had no jurisdiction over a photograph that was claimed to have been published on the Daily Mirror website in 2003. The IT Law in Ireland blog has a short report here.
In Israel, on 15 March 2012, the Tel Aviv District Court rejected an appeal by a couple from London who developed a computer virus and used it to spy on a PC belonging to Israeli thriller writer Amnon Jackont. The defendants Ruth and Michael Haephrati were ordered to pay Amnon Jackont a sum of NIS 400,000 (£67,000) for invasion of privacy.
In Jamaica’s Supreme Court, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Owen Clunie’s defamation case against the former police commissioner Francis Forbes, over comments made on a television programme is underway. The Jamaica Observer reports here.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 19 March 2012, Tugendhat J will hear the application on the return date in the non-media privacy injunction case of SKA v CRH.
On Tuesday 20 March 2012, there will be a hearing of the adjourned strike out application in the case of Jeeg Global v Hare.
On Wednesday 21 March 2012, the Supreme Court will give its long awaited judgment in the Reynolds qualified privilege case of Flood v Times Newspapers, (heard 17 and 18 October 2011).
Next week at the Leveson Inquiry
Monday 19 March, 10:00 – 16:30: Dave Harrison (retired criminal investigator; Jeremy Lawton (Daily Star); James Murray (Sunday Express); John Twomey (Daily Express and Chair of the Crime Reporters Association). To be read: Scott Hesketh (Daily Star Sunday).
Tuesday 20 March, 10:00-16:30: Adrian Faber (Birmingham Express and Star); Tim Gordon (South Wales Echo); Commissioner Bernard Hogan- Howe (MPS); Justin Penrose (Sunday Mirror); Tom Pettifor (Daily Mirror); Chief Inspector Sally Seeley (Head of Press and PR, West Midlands Police); Chief Constable Chris Sims (West Midlands Police). To be read: Abby Alford (South Wales Echo).
Wednesday 21 March, 10:00-16.30: Chief Constable Stephen House (Strathclyde Police); Catherine Llewellyn (Press Officer, South Wales Police); Sean O’Neil (Times); Jonathan Russell (The Herald Scotland); Rob Shorthouse (Director of Communications, Strathclyde Police); Chief Constable Peter Vaughan (South Wales Police). To be read: Mark Thompson.
Next week in Parliament
Monday 19 March, 2.30pm: Legislation – Protection of Freedoms Bill – Consideration of Lords amendments. Main chamber, House of Commons.
Wednesday 21 March, 2.30pm – 4pm: Safety of journalists abroad – Mr Don Foster, Westminster Hall, House of Commons.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
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).
Hunt v Times Newspapers, heard 9 and 12 March 2012 (Eady J).
Also on Inforrm last week
- Case Law: Giggs v News Group, claim for privacy damages struck out – Brid Jordan
- Promoting Legal Protection for the Media in China – Clare Kissin
- Case Law: Tesla Motors v BBC, Libel and Malicious falsehood – Edward Craven
- Media, policing and politics: the business of “holding others to account” – Colin Sumner: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
- Hello Tamiz, goodbye Godfrey – Graham Smith
- Lord Hunt’s proposal: the last chance saloon again – Brian Cathcart
- Conditional Fee Agreements: how wrong can Governments get them? – Alastair Brett
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 email@example.com.