The apparent improvement in press behaviour after the establishment of the Leveson Inquiry may be coming to an end. The “Guardian” reports that the number of “advisory and desist” notices issued in the first 6 months are back to 2010 levels, after a dramatic dip in the second half of 2011.
The PCC issued 110 advisory and desist notices in 2010 and, in the first six months of 2011, it sent out 119. However, the figure fell to only 27 in the second half 2011. However, in the first six months of 2012 66 were issued.
On 27 June 2012 the “Pan-European Forum on Media Pluralism” took place in the European Parliament Debating Chamber. Neelie Kroes Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda gave an address on “Safeguarding Media Pluralism”. The only one of the impressive range of speeches was that given by Hugh Grant – where he called on European Union regulators to restrict the influence of media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch. There is a report of the event on the “New Europe” website.
On Wednesday 27 June 2012, a three judge Divisional Court, the Lord Chief Justice, Owen and Griffiths Williams JJ heard the “Twitter joke” case, Chambers v DPP. The solicitor for Paul Chambers, David Allen Green, writes about the case in “The Lawyer”. His “Jack of Kent” blog has a “Round up of key links” about the case. There is also an article about the case in the “Irish Times”
Libel reform continues to make the news, with Libel Reform campaigners seeking amendments to the Defamation Bill to provide further protection for publishers. On 27 June 2012 there was a “Mass Lobby for Libel Reform”. Alex Hern writes about the rally in the “New Statesman”. Professor Brian Cox handed a petition to Downing Street calling for a public interest defence in defamation cases to protect the science community from spurious litigation.
The Defamation Bill Committee had further hearings on 26 June 2012 (morning and afternoon). Former journalist Denis MacShane MP argued in favour of a new clause that would bar corporations from suing for libel. There is a post about this on the Free Speech blog. The proposed new clause was rejected by the Committee which ultimately decided to report the bill to the whole House.
The case of McLaughlin v London Borough of Lambeth was settled just before the commencement of a 20 day trial by Eady J. A statement in open court was agreed, with the remainder of the terms remaining confidential. Lambeth has accepted that any allegation of financial impropriety – made by Mr Khan in a briefing paper to a government department – would have been ‘quite untrue’, and expressed their regret at the upset caused to the claimants by the briefing paper. There is a news item on the Durand Academy website. There is also a news item on the One Brick Court website. Richard Wilson writes about the case on the Free Speech Blog.
A libel claim by Nick Manoudakis against Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has been settled. In his apology, Sir Stelios admits he was wrong to have said that “Mr Manoudakis abused his corporate credit cards whilst in the employ of easyGroup between 2001 and 2006… and that he lied in court documents”. The “Daily Telegraph” reports that the dispute is likely to cost Sir Stelios around £500,000.
There have been a number of news reports about new libel proceedings. Bryan English, Chelsea’s former medical director, is suing the “Sunday Times” over a story which accused him of misdiagnosing injuries to key players (see this report in the Press Gazette). The Press Gazette also reports that a claim has also been issued by Andrew Murray, chief of staff of Unite the Union, against the “Mail on Sunday” over a story headlined “Red Len’s right-hand man … the hardline ‘Member for N Korea’”.
The Press Gazette reports that the IPCC is investigating the Deputy Chief Constable of Surrey over claims that he failed to act over the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There was a statement in open court made as part of the settlement of the case of McLaughlin v London Borough of Lambeth which has already been discussed. The Statement in Open Court can be seen here. There is an item about the case on the Carter-Ruck website.
On 28 June 2012 there was a statement in open court in the case of Ingram v Times Newspapers. The Sunday Times today apologised to former Labour MP and defence minister Adam Ingram and agreed to pay damages over claims he made corrupt payment’s to Colonel Gaddafi’s son. See here for the Statement in Open Court. There is an item about the case on the Carter-Ruck website and a news story on the Press Gazette website.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any other cases to report in this section.
Journalism and regulation
The Thunderer blog has an interesting piece on “Philanthro-journalism” – commenting on a piece in the Economist on the possibility of solving the problem of the decline in media revenues by philanthropy.
There were two PCC adjudications last week. First, a complaint by an activist representing “Dale Farm Solidarity” against the “Sun” over an article “The Sun goes undercover for Dale Farm diary” complaining that evidence was obtained by subterfuge in breach of clause 10. The complaint was not upheld. The Commission was satisfied that the public interest was sufficient to justify the level of subterfuge on this occasion. The decision can be found here.
The second adjudication concerned a complaint by Philip Bell in relation to accuracy complaint under clause 1 about an article on “Mail Online” headlined “”Is this finally proof we’re NOT causing global warming? The whole of the Earth heated up in medieval times without human CO2 emissions, says new study”. The PCC held that sufficient remedial action had been taken. The decision can be found here.
Resolved complaints include: Mrs Lorna Leckie v The Scottish Sun, Mr Andrew Curtis v The Sun, Dr Kalind Parashar v Daily Mail and Councillor James Moher v Brent & Kilburn Times.
Research & resources
In an unpublished paper entitled “Quacks like a Duck: a New Test for News-Media Libel in the United States”, Carrie Leonetti of the University of Oregon School of Law argues that the actual-malice standard promotes sloppy reporting. It proposes making Sullivan better with two concrete, constitutionally mandated modifications to the existing doctrine, to bring it more in line libel law in other common-law countries like England, Australia, and New Zealand.
In the Courts
As a already mentioned, the libel trial of McLaughlin v London Borough of Lambeth which was due to begin on Monday 25 June 2012 in Court 13 before Eady J was settled before the trial began.
The privacy trial in AAA v Associated Newspapers before Nicola Davies J concluded on 26 June 2012 after a six day trial. The trial and closing submissions were in private. Judgment was reserved.
The defamation case of Jooste v GMC was heard on 26 June 2012 and an ex tempore judgment given.
As already mentioned, on Wednesday 27 June 2012 a three judge Divisional Court (Lord Judge LCJ, Owen and Griffiths Williams JJ) heard the appeal in the case of Chambers v DPP – the so-called “Twitter joke case”.
On Thursday 28 June 2012 the Court of Appeal (Laws and Rix LJJ) refused permission to appeal on liability in the case of Cairns v Modi (for the first instance judgment see  EWHC 756 (QB)). The judge had already given permission to appeal on quantum. That appeal will be heard at the same time as the appeal against the same judge’s decision in KC v MGN Ltd  EWHC 483 (QB).
On 29 June 2012, Tugendhat J heard an application to strike out a libel claim in Mayer v Hoar. Judgment was reserved.
The claimant in the case of Trimingham v Associated Newspapers has made an application for permission to appeal. The Court of Appeal “Case Tracker” link is here.
Please contact us with additional items for this section and we will update the round up.
3 July 2012, 18:30pm: Maintaining Trust and Values in the Digital Age, LSE, London.
17 July 2012, 8:30-10am, Responsibility for defamatory user generated content: the changing landscape, Field Fisher Waterhouse, 35 Vine Street, London, EC3N 2PX.
1-27 August, 5pm, Comedy: ‘One Rogue Reporter‘, Rich Peppiatt / Something for the Weekend, Edinburgh Festival.
Know of any media law events happening in July / August? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Antigua: The secretary of the Free and Fair Elections League, George Rick James, was awarded $7,500 libel damages against MP Molwyn Joseph airing out of comments concerning his attendance at a Tribunal which was considering the conduct of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission
Australia. The “Defamation Watch” blog has a post about the case of Association of Quality Childcare Centres of NSW v Manefield ( NSWCA 123) in which the Court of Appeal upheld an award of damages of Aus$150,000 against an employers’ association in respect of a defamatory letter sent to its members concerning a former employee.
On 18 June 2012, in the case of Cunliffe v Woods ( VSC 254) the Supreme Court of Victoria (Beach J) dismissed an action for libel based on a letter concerning an affidavit of the plaintiff solicitor in other proceedings. The judge held that the letter was published on an occasion properly incidental to the original proceedings and was therefore protected by absolute privilege.
Canada: An anti-gay pamphleteer is suing CBC for libel in relation to a news story concerning a previous case which he took to the Supreme Court.
Jamaica: In Jamaica it appears that the government has decided not to appeal a jury award of Jam$35 million defamation damages in favour of former deputy commissioner of police Owen Clunie against the former commissioner of police and the government for libel.
Next week in the courts
On 2 July 2012, Tugendhat J will hear an application in the case of Desmond v Forbes.
On 4 July 2012, the Supreme Court will give judgment in the “phone hacking” case of Phillips v Mulcaire, (heard 8 to 10 May 2012). The case concerns the question as to whether Mr Mulcaire can rely on the privilege against self-incrimination in the phone hacking litigation (see our post on the hearing).
On 5 July 2012, Tugendhat J will hear an application in the case of Carron v Buckingham.
Next week at the Leveson Inquiry
The Inquiry is not sitting in the week commencing 2 July 2012. Oral Hearings in relation to Module 4 of the Inquiry will begin on Monday 9 July 2012.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
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)
Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, heard 3 April 2012 (Maurice Kay and Hooper LJJ and Henderson J)
Miller v Associated Newspapers heard 21 to 25 May 2012 (Sharp J)
AAA v Associated Newspapers heard 17 to 20, 25 and 26 June 2012 (Nicola Davies J)
Mayer v Hoar, heard 29 June 2012 (Tugendhat J)