Law and Media Round Up – 29 October 2012

29 10 2012

Frankie Boyle was successful in his libel claim against Mirror Group Newspapers, as Inforrm reported here. The jury found in Boyle’s favour on liability: they found that he had been libelled by an article which described him as a “racist comedian” and by a claim that he had been “forced to quit” the BBC show Mock the Week. On the first allegations, he was awarded damages of £50,400 and, on the second, damages of £4,250. He is to donate the award in damages to the charity Reprieve, the BBC reports.

The former owner of the Daily Telegraph Conrad Black is back from serving 37 months in a US prison for fraud and obstruction of justice, and “here to sell books“, as he told Sky News’ Adam Boulton. He has made his feelings about Jeremy Paxman very clear, twice and continues to assert his innocence. The book is called ‘A Matter of Principle‘.

Phone hacking claims are being brought by four individuals against Mirror Group Newspapers in claims involving the Sunday Mirror and The People – the first voicemail litigation not involving News International. The Claimants include Sven-Goran Eriksson, Shobna Gulati, Abbie Gibson and Garry Flitcroft.

The Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, which were found guilty of contempt of court in June for articles published after Levi Bellfield’s conviction for the abduction and murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler, have each been fined £10,000. The judgment on penalties, released on 22 October, can be found here. The reporting of the judgment was postponed following an application by MGN until the conclusion of the Frankie Boyle v MGN libel trial (see above). The original decision can be found here: HM Attorney General v Associated Newspapers Ltd & Anor [2012] EWHC 2029 (Admin) (18 July 2012).

As the expected publication date of the Leveson Inquiry report draws closer, the debate around regulatory reform is heating up. Professor Brian Cathcart of the Hacked Off campaign warned of “Operation Megaphone” earlier this year, and the national press has begun to protest even more loudly.

As noted in last week’s round up, Professor Tim Luckhurst has authored a pamphlet ‘Responsibility Without Power’ [PDF] to launch the Free Speech Network at an invitation-only event in London last Thursday (Hugh Grant was reportedly not allowed to bring a Channel 4 camera inside). Press Gazette is behind the campaign against statutory underpinning as well; its comment piece has triggered some interesting comments. Hacked Off reports extracts from the debate here. Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust, and Hacked Off respond to Tim Luckhurst’s piece in the Telegraph here and here, respectively.

Media regulation and standards was debated in the House of Lords last week, with the motion “that this House takes note of the relationship between media standards and media regulation”. In Baroness Onora O’Neill’s view, “we lack a clear view of the sorts of issues that will be at stake when Lord Justice Leveson reports,” It is therefore, “rather a good point” at which to have an initial debate, which she “hopes can help pave the way for later and more detailed consideration“.

Did the Leveson Inquiry have a “sense of humour failure” over its parody in the brilliant BBC series ‘The Thick of It’? That’s what the Independent reported here, claiming that the editor of The Times, James Harding, was required to write to Lord Justice Leveson earlier this summer “explaining why the paper had run a short story revealing that the BBC2 show’s current series would satirise a public inquiry run on similar lines to the press ethics inquiry“. However, it seems much more likely that the Inquiry team were interested in the way the Times reported a real-life poll in the same article, which had been the subject of criticism by Professor Brian Cathcart here. James Harding’s fourth statement in July 2012 can be found here [PDF].

There have been further allegations of abuse by Jimmy Savile, with further fallout at the BBC following the decision not to broadcast its Newsnight edition. Its Panorama programme, ‘What the BBC Knew’ can be found on iPlayer here.

Phone hacking may not be such a recent phenomenon after all, reports Roy Greenslade on his Guardian blog. He has a tale from 1934 when a sports reporter discovered his rivals “had made arrangements for his calls to be monitored at the hotel switchboard“.

Lucy Reed has blogged about her experiences as a litigant-in-person defending a defamation claim brought in 2009, over content published on her family law blog Pink Tape. “Other bloggers beware,” she writes. “It is easy to end up in my situation. There but for the grace of un-God go you“. Reed secured summary judgment in her favour on two grounds. Permission for judicial review in the case has been refused.

John Hemming’s Family Justice (Transparency, Accountability and Cost of Living) Bill 2012-13 has had its second reading in Parliament. A House of Commons Research Paper can be found here. Jeremy Wright, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice said the Government was already using legislation to introduce some of the reforms in the bill, which fell following a short division, as reported by PA Media Lawyer here.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

Times Newspapers have made a statement in open court in Horton v Times Newspapers,The Times offered its “sincere apologies to the Claimant for the hurt it has caused him” and agreed to pay the Claimant substantial damages “for accessing his email account without his consent, and to pay his legal costs“. It has also undertaken “not to access or attempt to access the Claimant’s email account again“. Earlier this month it was reported that the Times had settled with the Claimant for £42,500 plus costs. David Allen Green reported on the case at the New Statesman here and published the statement in open court on his own site here.

Please let us know if there is anything further to report in this section: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Journalism and regulation

There are no new adjudications to report, and only a handful of resolved cases. This included a Clause 1 complaint brought by the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP against the Times, over an article and graphic that he claimed had “misled readers into believing that he was personally remunerated for his ‘speeches, academic post and policy work’“. The matter was resolved when the Times published a clarification which stated: “All money from his speeches and writings goes to the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown to fund his and his wife’s charitable and public service work, including, as its website states, £508,729 in charitable donations in a continuing programme of disbursements. Mr Brown has asked us to make clear that not one penny goes to him. We are happy to do so.

Other cases included: Mr Matthew Brealey v The Mail on Sunday, Clause 1, 26/10/2012; Reverend Pat Brown v Lancashire Telegraph, Clause 1, 25/10/2012; Mr Jonathan Apps and Ms Tina Hallett v The Independent on Sunday, Clause 1, 25/10/2012; Mr John Elgin v Border Counties Advertiser, Clause 1, 22/10/2012.

Ofcom has resolved a complaint against Channel 4 regarding an advertisement which encouraged viewers to tweet about the film, and then broadcast the positive tweets from viewers in a subsequent advert, Law-now.com reports.

Joshua Rosenberg, legal commentator and host of BBC Radio 4’s Law in Action reflects on his legal and journalistic career in a post for LegalCheek, and says: “If I had known the state that journalism was going to be in now, I would still have devoted the best part of 40 years to it. But I would certainly not advise anyone to go in for it now“.

Research & resources

  • An event in Oxford on 25 October looked at potential uses for UAVs (‘drones’) fitted with cameras in journalism and discussed associated legal and regulatory issues. The event at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism brought together specialists from the UAV industry, representatives from a number of news organisations, media lawyers, academics and aviation regulators to discuss these and other questions. A report from the Reuters Institute will follow in due course.
  • Recent publication: ‘Social Media and the Freedom of the Press: A Long-Term Perspective from within International News Agencies (AFP, Reuters)‘ Michael Palmer / Jérémie Nicey, ESSACHESS Journal for Communication Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2012
  • Academics and journalists gathered at the Institute of Communications annual conference on Thursday 25 October for an ‘After Leveson’ themed discussion. Papers will be published in an issue of Ethical Space in due course. The event also marked the launch of the new edition of The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial (eds: Keeble and Mair, Arima)
  • In the US, a survey of jurors from 15 trials conducted by the National Center for State Courts for the Executive Session for State Court Leaders in the 21st Century, “has found that jurors generally understand instructions not to use the Internet or social media to research or communicate about trials, but also that many jurors wish they could use technology to do some sort of research about the cases they sat on“, reports the Digital Media Law Project at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

In the Courts

As noted above, Frankie Boyle was successful in his libel trial in Boyle v MGN.  There were Inforrm posts on the trial and the verdict.

On 23 October 2012 Mr Justice Eady heard the second day of the application in Ansari v Knowles.  Judgment was reserved.

On 24 October 2012, Mr Justice Tugendhat handed down judgment in the case of McCann v Bennett ([2012] EWHC 2876 (QB)) a case concerning an application to commit by the parents of Madeleine McCann.

Judgment was handed down on 26 October by Mr Justice Tugendhat in the long-awaited libel trial of Joseph v Spiller [2012] EWHC 2958 (QB), as 5RB notes here. The judge found in the Claimants’ favour but awarded only nominal damages. He found one of the three claimants, Craig Joseph, to have abused the process of the Court by “attempting to deceive the court by fabricating a part of their claim for special damages“.

Also on the same day, judgment was handed down in Kevin Gregory v Robert Benham [2012] EWHC 2871 (QB). Mr Justice Eady upheld High Court Master John Leslie’s decision to strike a libel claim out, saying it contained no error of law or mistake of fact – and the Master had exercised his discretion correctly. The claim concerned emails sent by the defendant to six people in January 2010 but it was struck out because of the length of time taken to serve the particulars of claim. PA Media Lawyer reported here (£).

There was another phone hacking CMC on Friday 26 October 2012 before Mr Justice Vos.  The next CMC will be on 14 December 2012.

Events

29 Oct, 7.30pm, Rich Peppiatt: One Rogue Reporter, Soho Theatre, London [More national dates to be announced in due course].

13 November 2012, 6.30pm, ‘Regulating for Communication’, Baroness Onora O’Neill, Goldsmiths University, London.

19 November 2011, all day, Media and War: challenging the consensus, Goldsmiths University, London.

19 November 2012, The Poetry of Free Expression: Celebrating 40 years of Index on Censorship, Index on Censorship / Poet in the City. King’s Place, London.

20 November 2012, 5-8 pm, JUSTICE event: Life and Law Online: Defamation, freedom of expression and the web. Hunton & Williams, 30 St Mary Axe, London EC3A 8EP.

28 November 2012, 6pmCEL Annual Lecture 2012: Media Freedoms & Media Standards’, Baroness Onora O’Neill, London.

29 November 2012, IBC Legal: 6th annual Social Media and the Law, London.

Know of any media law events happening in the autumn/winter? Please let Inforrm know: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Ireland: The Irish Examiner breached the second Principle of Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines, which covers the need to distinguish between fact and comment, when it described an official report as a ‘damning internal audit’, according to the Press Ombudsman and Press Council of Ireland. The document itself did not contain the word ‘damning’, as PA Media Lawyer reports.

Scotland: The recent decision of the Court of Session in Scotland in RAH v MH ([2012] CSOH 126) is unusual for two reasons, Kerry Trewern reports for Inforrm: “First, it follows a proof (trial) in a defamation action; a rare beast in the Scottish courts. Second, parties’ names in the judgment are anonymised”.

United States: Tom Cruise is suing Life & Style magazine for defamation over claims he ‘deserted’ daughter, the Telegraph reports.

A post on WSJ.com looks at a defamation case in the Minnesota Supreme Court over a review on a ‘rate-your-doctor’ website.

Next week in the courts

On 29 October 2012, there is an application in the libel case of ZAM v CFW  – which is listed for a 5 day trial on 15 March 2013.

On 30 October 2012 a three day trial begins before Mr Justice Tugendhat in the case of Abbey v Gilligan, a claim for breach of confidence arising out of the publication of the claimant’s emails in the “Evening Standard”.

On 31 October 2012 the Court of Appeal will give judgment in the joined cases of KC v MGN; Cairns v Modi, (heard 26 and 27 July 2012 by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Neuberger and Eady J).

On the same day the trial in Mengi v Hermitage will begin.  This is listed for 3 weeks.

Also on Wednesday 31 October 2012, the Court of Appeal (Rix, Etherton and Lewison LJJ) will hear the appeal in the case of Iqbal v Mansoor, an appeal from the decision of HHJ Parkes in August 2011 ([2011] EWHC 2261 (QB)).  The details can be found on Case Tracker.

On Friday 2 November 2012, there will be an application in the case of Peter Cruddas v Times Newspapers Limited.

Next week in Parliament

Tuesday 30 October, 3pm. Draft Communications Data Bill Joint Select Committee.
Witness(es): Trefor Davies, Chief Technology Officer, Timico Ltd, David Walker, Labelled Security Ltd, Caspar Bowden, Independent advocate for information privacy rights and Dr Gus Hosein, Executive Director, Privacy International; Steve Higgins, Detective Chief Inspector, National Police Improvement Agency, Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable, Greater Manchester Police, Andre Baker QPM, Deputy Chief Executive, CEOP and Allan Lyon, Detective Superintendent, Greater Manchester Police. Location: Committee Room 4A

Tuesday 30 October, 2.30pm, Legislation – Crime and Courts Bill [HL] – Committee of the whole House (Day 7) – Lord Henley. Main Chamber, House of Lords.

Tuesday 30 October, 3.15pm, House of Lords Communications select committee. Subject: Media Convergence.Witness(es): (at 3.30pm) Mr Tim Suter, Managing Director, Perspective. Location: Committee Room 2, Palace of Westminster

Wednesday 31 October, 2.30pm – 4pm, Social responsibility of internet-based media companies – Fiona Mactaggart, Westminster Hall, House of Commons.

Wednesday 31 October, 3pm, Draft Communications Data Bill Joint Select Committee.
Witness(es): Rt Hon Theresa May, Home Secretary. Location: Committee Room 4

Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

  • Miller v Associated Newspapers heard 21 to 25 May 2012 (Sharp J)
  • Ansari v Knowles, heard 4 and 23 October 2012 (Eady 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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5 11 2012
Law and Media Round Up – 5 November 2012 « Inforrm's Blog

[...] Last week we included Joshua Rozenberg’s reflections on his legal and journalistic career at Legal Cheek; this week the site features Mark Stephens, partner at Finers Stephens Innocent (FSI). He says: [...]

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