Law and Media Round Up – 9 July 2012

9 07 2012

The Home Affairs Select Committee has published its Report on “Private Investigators”.  It recommends the establishment ofa robust licensing and registration system” with a Code of Conduct. 

It also proposes that dealings between police and investigators should be recorded and that there should be a one year cooling off period between serving as a police officer and entering the investigation industry.  The report is discussed in the Guardian.

On 4 July 2012, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a Declaration on the “Desirability of International Standards dealing with Forum Shopping in respect of Defamation, ‘Libel Tourism’, to Ensure Freedom of Expression”. The deliberations are at an early stage.  The Committee concluded that an “inventory” of the Court’s case law in respect of defamation could be established “with a view to suggesting new action if need be”.  If there was, in fact,  a lack of clear rules as to the applicable law and jurisdiction then such rules should be created.  Roy Greenslade discusses the Declaration on his blog.

On 5 July 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed a resolution upholding the principle of freedom of expression and information on the Internet.  This is the draft resolution [pdf].  There is an opinion piece about the resolution by the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, in the New York Times.

The victory of the defendant, “Nature” magazine in the libel case brought by Professor Mohammed El-Naschie ([2012] EWHC1809 (QB)) was widely reported.  The BBC noted that the case prompted further demands for libel reform and there were pieces about the decision in the THES, the Guardian, the Press Gazette and in Nature itself.

The Leveson Inquiry resumes today with the first witnesses in “Module 4” (see below).  The Guardian reports that Lord Justice Leveson has used his powers under section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005 to order newspaper editors to say whether they agree with the detailed proposals submitted last month by Lord Black of Brentwood for regulation of the press.  The Belfast Telegraph notes that among the witnesses to be called is the Irish Press Ombudsman.

Decisions are likely to be made soon on phone hacking prosecutions.  According to today’s Guardian the DPP, Keir Starmer, is “reasonably confident” that the Crown Prosecution Service will reach a conclusion on what action it will take by the end of July in respect of 13 case files relating to alleged phone-hacking offences conducted by reporters and editors.

Meanwhile, the Operation Motorman story continues to bubble under the surface.  It has been reported that 72 people have been informed by the Information Commissioner that they were victims of the illegal information gathering activities of Mr Steven Whittamore and his associates in the early years of the last decade.

Twitter has published a “transparency report” for the first 6 months of 2012 – setting out the numbers of “user information requests” (UK, 11), Removal requests (UK, 1) and copyright takedown notices.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

On 5 July 2012 there was a statement in open court [pdf] in the case of Carron v Buckingham and others, arising out of an article in the “Mail on Sunday” that falsely alleged that C had stolen millions of pounds from his mortgage brokerage firm in a Ponzi-style fraud.

Tabloid Watch and The Greenslade blog draw attention to an apology by Associated Newspapers an Irish businessman in the Dublin High Court for falsely accusing him of being a “convicted drug dealer”.

Journalism and regulation

A report on Islam and Muslims and the British Media [pdf], by Unitas, was submitted to the Leveson Inquiry this week,    The report concludes

a persistence of anti­‐Muslim trends in British Media reporting on issues relating to Islam and Muslims has directly contributed to inaccurate stereotypes and misconceptions about British Muslims in wider British society, and thus to an increasingly hostile climate that has enabled a escalation of anti-Muslim hate crimes over the last decade.

There is a post about the report on the recently revived Angry Mob blog.

The Tabloid Watch blog has a post about two “Muslim converts ‘who plotted to attack Olympic canoeing venue’” – or rather, who didn’t.

The Five Chinese Crackers’ blog has a post on the evolution of the fine old tabloid genre “Political Correctness Gone Mad”.

The Greenslade blog suggests that the Press Complaints Commission is being forced to deal with far too many complaints because newspapers are failing to publish corrections and apologies off their own back.

In the Courts

On 2 and 3 July 2012, Tugendhat J heard an application in the case of Desmond v Forbes. Judgment was reserved

On 4 July 2012, the Supreme Court gave judgment in the “phone hacking” case of Phillips v Mulcaire, (heard 8 to 10 May 2012). The appeal was dismissed, although the Supreme Court support the decision on narrower grounds that the Court of Appeal.  This decision was widely discussed in the media and the blogosphere.  We had a case comment by Dan Tench. The IPKat blog has a post about the decision entitled “Supreme Court: IP exists but can’t be defined”.  Contrary to some reports, it seems unlikely that this decision will lead to a flood of information being provided by Mr Mulcaire – bearing in mind the fact that he will be asked to recall conversations which took place between 6 and 12 years ago where, it appears, he only kept very limited records.

As already mentioned, on 6 July 2012, Sharp J gave the long awaited judgment in El-Naschie v Macmillan, ([2012] EWHC1809 (QB)) heard 11, 14, 16 to 18, 21, 22, 25, 28-30 November, 1 -2 December 2011.  The defendants were wholly successful and the claim was dismissed with costs.

On 5 July 2012 Tugendhat J gave judgment in the case of Mayer v Hoar ([2012] EWHC1805 (QB)), which was heard on 29 June 2012.

On the same day there was a pre-trial review in the case of Houston v Prince Paul of Romania before Hamblen J.

Events

17 July 2012, 8:30-10am, Responsibility for defamatory user generated content: the changing landscape, Field Fisher Waterhouse, 35 Vine Street, London, EC3N 2PX.

19 July 2012, 7.00-8.30pm, “What will Lord Justice Leveson conclude about the future of the British Press?”, Frontline Club, Panel Includes Brian Cathcart and David Aaronovitch.

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: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Guyana:  The former president, Bharrat Jagdeo’s is bringing a libel action against newspaper columnist, Freddie Kissoon.  Jagdeo has sued Kissoon, seeking GUY$10 million in libel damages for allegedly calling him an ideological racist in a June 28, 2010 Kaieteur News column titled ‘King Kong sent his goons to disrupt the conference’.  The former president was not called to give evidence on his own behalf. There are reports of the trial in Demerara Waves and the Guyana Chronicle which reports that the plaintiff’s closing submissions have been completed and the defendant’s will begin on 30 July 2012.

Hungary:  A Budapest court ruled that a statement by the liberal philosopher János Kis about Hungary’s chief prosecutor – saying he had questionable neutrality – was an expression of opinion and did not amount to defamation.

India.  The “Law and other Things” blog has a post about the decision of the Delhi High Court in the case of Registrar of Companies v. Dharmendra Kumar – which held that the Right to Information Act, 2005 does not apply to those documents which can be accessed under existing legislation and rules.

Israel: State Prosecutor Moshe Lador has apologized to former prime minister Ehud Olmert in a libel action which Olmert had issued against him.

Uganda:  The Committee to Protect Journalists has a post about a number of welcome court victories by the Ugandan press, “Ugandan press finds unexpected ally in judiciary”.

Next week in the courts

On Monday 9 July 2012, Tugendhat J will hear an application in the case of Contostavlos v Mendahun (the “Tulisa” sex tape privacy injunction case, see our post here)

On Tuesday and Wednesday 10 and 11 July 2012 there will be a privacy trial in the case of SKA v CRH (which was the subject of an interim judgment on 28 March 2012 ([2012] EWHC 766 (QB)).

On 11 July 2012, there are applications in the cases of Qadir v Associated Newspapers and Tilbrook v Parr.

On 13 July 2012 there is an application in the case of Singh v Singh.  There is also a CMC in the Voice Mail interception litigation before Vos J.

On the same date the European Court of Human Rights will deliver judgment in the case of Mouvement Raëlien Suisse v. Switzerland.  The case concerns the authorities’ refusal to allow the applicant to put up posters because it had engaged in activities considered immoral (it was heard on 16 November 2011).

Next week at the Leveson Inquiry

Oral Hearings in relation to Module 4 of the Inquiry will begin on Monday 9 July 2012.  The list of witnesses is available here and includes Lords Black and Hunt (Monday 9 July 2012), Michelle Stanistreet and Martin Moore (Tuesday 10 July 2012) and Angela Phillips (CCMR), and Hugh Tomlinson QC (Friday 13 July 2012).

Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

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)

Desmond v Foreman, heard 2 to 3 July 2012 (Tugendhat J)


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