This is the final Inforrm Law and Media Round Up before the summer. The Parliamentary recess has begun and the Trinity legal term ends tomorrow – the Michaelmas legal term does not start until October. Over the next couple of months the courts and parliament will be quiet and Inforrm will be taking a summer break.
After 26 weeks of sittings the Leveson Inquiry has held its final hearing in Part 1, looking at “the culture, practices, and ethics of the press”, as Inforrm noted here. “Save for a number of what might be described as ‘loose ends’ or ‘updates’ the gathering of formal evidence by the examination of witnesses is now at an end,” Lord Justice Leveson said on Tuesday 24 July.
Will there be a Part 2, as originally intended, to examine “the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International, other newspaper organisations and, as appropriate, other organisations within the media, and by those responsible for holding personal data” ? So far, the Inquiry has avoided factual investigation in phone hacking.
In Lord Justice Leveson’s last ruling in Part 1 of the Inquiry there was no mention of Part 2, but he has said that he will issue another request under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005 to DAC Akers for an update on the police investigations, returnable on a date “probably in September“.
Outside the Inquiry, meanwhile, there have been significant developments in the criminal investigation and the civil litigation. Eight individuals are to be charged with phone hacking related offences. Following a hearing before Mr Justice Vos on 18 July 2012, the “cut off” date for inclusion in the “Tranche 2″ voicemail interception litigation has now been extended to 14 September 2012.
But will these separate proceedings give what the David Sherborne, counsel for the victims, described as “a full picture of what took place“? He argued they would not, in the morning hearing on Tuesday 24 July, and urged “on behalf of the victims” for the Inquiry “to proceed to part 2 as soon as it is possible to do so“. He said that “the first reason why part 2 must continue is to do the work that is necessary to complete part 1 … The other is that what we’ve seen so far, as DAC Akers speculated, is only the tip of the iceberg“.
Without giving any time frame, Lord Justice Leveson clarified that he is “not in any sense seeking to advance an argument that part 2 should not happen” despite interpretations:
“Although it’s been suggested that I’ve said that, paragraph 65 of my ruling of 1 May doesn’t actually say that.”
We will have to wait and see.
The appeal by in the “Twitter joke” case (Chambers v DPP) has been allowed. The appeal was heard, for the second time, on 27 June 2012 and judgment was handed down on 27 July 2012 ( EWHC 2157 (QB)), as reported on Inforrm here.
A small child whose father is alleged to be a philandering politician has won £15,000 privacy damages at the High Court. The mother of the girl, identified only as AAA, has not named the father on her daughter’s birth certificate and wants to find the “right time” to reveal his identity to her ( EWHC 2103 (QB), as reported on Inforrm here.
The Justice Select Committee has published its report on Post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, finding that the Freedom of Information Act is “generally working well and its scope should not be diminished, although some concerns raised about its operation need to be addressed“.
Northcliffe Media has issued a subpoena to Twitter in a Californian court in a bid to discover the identity behind the account @UnSteveDorkland, which appears to be a parody of Northcliffe’s chief executive Steve Auckland. BBC reports here.
A post on New Matilda, ‘Defamation by a thousand likes’, examines the development of contempt and defamation law in relation to online content and the “noticeboard principle”, raising some pertinent questions.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
Charlotte Church has accepted substantial libel damages over a claim in the People Sunday newspaper in November 2011 that she proposed to boyfriend Jonathan Powell during a drunken karaoke night at a pub in Cardiff. MGN “apologised for the hurt and damage Charlotte Church suffered because of an inaccurate story, which it accepted was incorrect after Miss Church first complained,” PA Media Lawyer reported here (subscription required).
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any other cases to report in this section and they will be included when we resume the Round Up after the summer break.
Journalism and regulation
The PCC has not upheld Bell Pottinger Group’s complaint against the Independent for publishing reports on the company’s public relations and lobbying methods. The PCC found that undercover reporters from the Bureau for Investigative Journalism (BIJ) did not breach Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The Commission found that “the means employed by the journalists had been appropriately tailored to explore the allegations made by confidential sources about the firm’s activities, which raised issues of significant public interest. This was not a ‘fishing expedition’“. The adjudication can be found here and the PCC’s press summary is here.
There is one resolved complaint to note: North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust v News & Star and Cumberland News (Clause 1). While the newspapers did not accept that they had breached the terms of the Code, the matter was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of letters from the complainant in the two newspapers.
Craig Silverman has written a useful post on ‘how journalists can do a better job of correcting errors on social media‘. It is based on a panel he participated in at Journalism.co.uk’s news:rewired conference in London earlier this month.
The Guardian has an interesting feature reflecting on journalists and photographers’ role in witnessing traumatic events and whether they should step into help, following news of this incident in India.
Research & resources
- The “Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe” project (MediaAct) examines media accountability systems (MAS) in EU member states “as indicators for media pluralism in Europe”. It has published a list of links to European initiatives and press councils here as well as an extensive literature database here.
- Publication: LSE MediaPolicy Brief 7, Regulating Media Plurality and Media Power in the 21st Century, [PDF], Rachael Craufurd Smith, Damian Tambini and Davide Morisi.
- The US-based Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press (RCFP) has released a “FirstAid app” on iPhone, iPad and Android to “help journalists who need quick answers to legal issues that arise while covering the news. It is meant as a quick solution during an urgent situation, such as when a judge or other official is keeping you from a hearing or a meeting, or a police officer is threatening you with arrest“. Details here.
In the Courts
On Monday 23 July 2012, Tugendhat J gave judgment in the case of Desmond v Foreman (heard 2 to 3 July 2012).
At 2.00pm the same judge heard an application in the case of EWQ v GFD.
On Wednesday 25 July 2012, Nicola Davies J gave judgment in the case of AAA v Associated Newspapers (heard 17 to 20, 25 and 26 June 2012). As we have mentioned, there was an Inforrm news comment.
On Thursday 26 and Friday 27 July 2012 the trial of a preliminary issue as to qualified privilege in the case of Qadir v Associated Newspapers took place before Tugendhat J.
The conjoined quantum appeals in KC v MGN and Cairns v Modi were to be heard by a strong Court of Appeal (Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls and Eady J) on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 July 2012. Judgment was reserved. At the end of the hearing the Lord Chief Justice and Desmond Browne QC paid tribute to the Master of the Rolls at his last sitting in the Court of Appeal before his return to the Supreme Court, as its President.
1-27 August, 5pm, Comedy: ‘One Rogue Reporter’, Rich Peppiatt / Something for the Weekend, Edinburgh Festival.
20 September 2012, IBC Legal’s 18th Annual Protecting the Media conference, London.
27 September 2012, Conference5RB (media law & entertainment) London.
Know of any media law events happening in August / September / October? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Pakistan: According to the Hindustan Times / AFP, Pakistan’s cabinet has asked the National Database Registration Authority to sue the UK’s Sun for defamation over the paper’s claims to have uncovered a visa scam allowing access to the Olympic Games. Geo.tv also has a report here.
Ethiopia: An Ethiopian court has banned distribution of the newspaper Feteh, after it published front page articles about the health of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and also protests in Addis Ababa, according to Bloomberg.
Malta: A court has awarded a lawyer €15,000 in libel damages following allegations in MaltaToday in January 2006, as Malta Times reports here.
United States: In People v. Harris, a New York trial court has ruled that there is no privacy interest in public tweets 180 days old or more. “If the government wants to see public tweets newer than that, it should get a search warrant,” the Media Law Prof blog explains here.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 30 July 2012 Tugendhat J will hand down a joint judgment in seven privacy injunction cases from 2011: Goodwin, JIH, TSE, MJN, ETK, NOM and XJA.
On the same day he will also hand down a judgment in EWQ v GFD (heard on 23 July 2012).
On the same day Eady J will hand down judgment in Lord Ashcroft v Foley (heard 20 July 2012).
The judgment in SKA v CRH, (heard 10 and 11 July 2012) will be handed down by Nicola Davies J on 31 July 2012.
The Trinity Term in the High Court and Court of Appeal ends on Tuesday 31 July. The Michaelmas term runs from Monday 1 October to Friday, 21 December 2012.
Next week in Parliament
The House of Commons is in recess. The House will next sit on Monday 03 September 2012.
The House of Lords is in recess. The House will next sit on Monday 08 October 2012.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Woodrow v Johansson, heard 19 January 2012 (HHJ Parkes QC)
Miller v Associated Newspapers heard 21 to 25 May 2012 (Sharp J)
Qadir v Associated Newspapers heard 26 and 27 July 2012 (Tugendhat J)
KC v MGN; Cairns v Modi, heard 26 and 27 July 2012 (Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls, Eady J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- Comment: The Leveson Inquiry is far from over – Martin Moore
- Case Law, Strasbourg: Mouvement Raelien Suisse v Switzerland, Of Aliens and Flying Saucers – Gabrielle Guillemin
- Contempt: Is online publication continuous? – Mike Dodd
- Case Law: Attorney General v Associated Newspapers: Newspaper articles on Levi Bellfield were in contempt of court – Eloise le Santo
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to everyone who has sent links and information over the past year and in particular to Dr David Goldberg for regularly alerting me to all sorts of informative articles.