The Attorney General has decided to begin contempt proceedings against individuals ‘who have been identified as having posted online photographs purporting to be of Jon Venables or Robert Thompson’. The official statement can be found here.
The House of Lords completed its third reading of the Defamation Bill, removing the controversial addition of a requirement to take into account whether pre-publication advice had been sought from the regulator. There is an update on the Parliament website, and a report in Press Gazette on the reading. The Defamation Bill has now completed its passage through the House of Lords and should be returned to the Commons with amendments for consideration. However, the Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley, told the Commons that the bill was, in its amended for, “still unacceptable”. He gave details of future business to be considered by MPs, but no date was set for the Defamation Bill’s return to the House.
The Justice and Security Bill, which will “provide for closed material procedure in relation to certain civil proceedings” and “prevent the making of certain court orders for the disclosure of sensitive information“, is due to have its report stage and third reading in the House of Commons this week (see “Next week in Parliament” below). A letter to the Observer, signed by over 100 journalists, lawyers and academics, calls on MPs “to make their vote count and oppose the secret courts proposals“.
The Scottish Courts Service has responded to a petition on public access to court records, which calls for new legislation “to create a free of charge public right of access to information generated in relation to court proceedings, including all documents which have been read in open court, whether aloud or not, and to proactively publish this information online”. Eric McQueen, chief executive of the Scottish Court Service, has said that the request “would place an unreasonably and disproportionately high administrative burden upon SCS”. Scottish Legal reports here.
Last month Mr Justice Eady presided over his final case as a High Court Judge. He is due to retire on 24 March 2013 after nearly 16 years on the High Court bench. Sara Mansoori reflected on his career in a post for Inforrm.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
Jessie Wallace, an actor in the BBC soap Eastenders, has accepted undisclosed libel damages over a claim in Reveal Magazine that she snubbed co-star Letitia Dean out of jealousy. In a statement in open court on 1 March, her solicitor said that today that the article wrongly suggested Wallace behaved in a highly unprofessional and childish manner. The National Magazine Company apologised publicly and unreservedly and agreed to pay damages. PA Media Lawyer reports here. Her solicitors, Clintons, has published a news item on its website.
On 26 February 2013 there was a Statement in Open Court in Andrew v Bassini. Tugendhat J was told that the defendant did not accept that the words he had used bore the meaning claimed, but had agreed to “set the record straight and apologise” to the Claimant. The claim was brought by Andrew, a sports agent, against former Watford FC chairman Laurence Bassini over comments published in the Watford Observer. According to his lawyers, agreed damages were “commensurate” but confidential. HoldtheFrontPage reports on the settlement here.
Journalism and regulation
There were two new Adjudications reported by the PCC last week: Lord Ashcroft v The Independent - Not Upheld, Clause 1, 28/02/2013 and Norfolk Constabulary v The Sun – Sufficient remedial action offered, Clause 1, 10, 27/02/2013. The latter, reported by the Guardian here, concerned articles relating to the police investigation into the deaths of John Didier and Annette Creegan, whose bodies had been discovered in the Norfolk Broads.
In Lord Ashcroft v The Independent, Lord Ashcroft complained to the PCC that an article reporting the outcome of his libel case against the Independent’s former publisher, a former editor and journalist “contained misleading information“. The action had settled with an agreed court statement in November 2012. The complaint was not upheld. 5RB has a short report on the adjudication here.
Resolved cases included: Paul Cooke v Daily Mail, Clauses 1, 3, 01/03/2013; Robert Miller v Gloucestershire Echo, Clause 1, 28/02/2013; Dale Vince v Daily Mail, Clause 3, 28/02/2013; Jon Cummins v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 28/02/2013; Payam Tamiz v Evening Standard, Clause 1, 26/02/2013; Velma Lyrae v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 25/02/2013.
The complaint brought by Payam Tamiz against the Evening Standard was stayed pending the conclusion of the legal proceedings: it was resolved when the Commission was later informed that the complaint had been resolved directly between the parties, with the Evening Standard agreeing to pay damages and publish an apology.
Research & resources
- New working paper: Dr. Yik Chan Chin, Truth, Fair Comments, Immunity and Public Opinion Supervision: Defenses of Freedom of Expression in Chinese Right to Reputation Lawsuits (February 27, 2013). Available at SSRN.
- New chapter: Lilian Edwards and Edina Harbinja, ‘What Happens to My Facebook Profile When I Die?’ : Legal Issues Around Transmission of Digital Assets on Death (February 21, 2013). Available at SSRN.
- 2013 UKSC Blog Essay Competition [deadline: 26 April 2013]
- CPS consultation on social media interim guidelines: ends 13 March 2013
In the Courts
On 25 February 2013, Silber J handed down judgment in the harassment case of The wife and children of Omar Othman v The English National Resistance & ors.
On Tuesday 26 February 2013 there was an application in the case of Caborn-Waterfield v Gold & ors. The background to the case is set out in this report in the Daily Telegraph. Judgment was reserved by Tugendhat J.
On 28 February 2013 the Court of Appeal delivered judgment in Waterson v Lloyd  EWCA Civ 136, a claim brought by the former Conservative MP for Eastbourne, Nigel Waterson, against his Liberal Democrat rival, Stephen Lloyd. By a majority, the Court of Appeal held that publications by a political candidate criticising his opponent’s ‘scandalous’ parliamentary expenses claims were statements of comment, rather than statements of fact, as Edward Craven reports for Inforrm here. BBC News reported here.
On 1 March 2013 there was a renewed application for permission to appeal in the privacy case of SKA v CRH. Arden LJ refused permission. The Case Tracker link is here.
8 March 2013, Law and the Media, University of Bristol.
12 March 2013, 6.30pm, Panel debate: Journalism in the Dock, City University London.
15 March 2013, 6.30pm-8.30pm, Media Reform Coalition event – David Mcknight’s book launch, Murdoch’s Politics. Centre for Creative Collaboration, 16 Acton Street, Kings Cross, London WC1X 9NG.
21-22 March 2013, Internet Domain Names: from Registration to Dispute Resolution, Academy of European Law (ERA), Trier, Germany.
27 March 2013, 17:30, Broadcast competition and regulation, Helen Weeds, University of Essex, City University London.
5 April 2013, Polis Journalism Conference, LSE, London.
22 April 2013, IBC Legal’s 20th Anniversary Defamation & Privacy conference, Grange Tower Bridge Hill, London.
16-17 May 2013, Legal frontiers in digital media: the sixth annual conference on emerging legal issues surrounding digital publishing and content distribution, Stanford University, Paul Brest Hall, Stanford, California.
23-24 May, “Social Media, Regulation and Freedom of Expression: A comparative perspective”. A workshop organized by HKBU and Tsinghua University, Communication & Visual Arts Building, Hong Kong Baptist University. Hong Kong.
Know of any media law events happening in the next few months? Please let Inforrm know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
New Zealand: Two former directors of Hanover Finance, Mark Hotchin and Eric Watson, have settled their defamation claim against the New Zealand Shareholders’ Association but continue to pursue its former chairman Bruce Sheppard, reports 3News.
Spain: Google is challenging a Spanish data protection decision in the ECJ. Google was ordered by the Audiencia Nacional to remove links from its search results pointing to a legal notice published in a newspaper. Reuters reports here / The Register here. Google has published a post on the case here.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 March 2013 Tugendhat J will hear the assessment of damages against the Third Defendant, Mark Burby in the long running case of WXY v Gewanter. Judgment for the Claimant was given on 6 March 2012 in her claim against Mr Burby, for injunctive relief restraining him from publishing or disclosing her private or confidential information and from harassing her and for damages for breach of confidence, misuse of private information and harassment. There have been many steps in these proceedings since the granting on 9 September 2009 of an interim injunction against Mr Burby, who is a public relations consultant.
On 5 March 2013 the Court of Appeal will hand down judgment in the cases of Tesla Motors v BBC which was heard on 15-16 January 2013 (Maurice Kay, Moore-Bick and Rimer LJJ).
On the same day judgment will be handed down in Iqbal v Dean Manson Solicitors (No. 2) which was heard on 31 October 2012 (Rix, Etherton and Lewison LJJ).
On 6 March 2013 there will be a Pre-Trial Review in the case of Fish v Myint. The trial is listed to begin on 18 March 2013 and last for 5 days.
Next week in Parliament
Monday 4 March, 2.30pm, Legislation – Justice and Security Bill [HL] – Report stage, Main Chamber, House of Commons.
Tuesday 5 March, 5.05pm, Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, Subject: Parliamentary Privilege, Witness(es): Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice; Rt Hon Tom Brake MP, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons. 2A, House of Commons.
Thursday 7 March, 9.30am, Legislation – Justice and Security Bill [HL] – Report stage (Day 2); Legislation – Justice and Security Bill [HL] – Third reading, Main Chamber, House of Commons.
Thursday 7 March, 2pm, Short Debate, Coverage of Parliament and politics by media corporations – Lord Soley, Grand Committee, House of Lords.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Citation PLC v. Ellis Whittam Limited, heard 5 December 2012 (Laws, Arden and Tomlinson LJJ)
Rothschild v. Associated Newspapers heard 12 and 13 December 2012 (Laws, McCombe LJJ and Eady J)
Thompson v James, heard 13 to 15 and 18 to 20 February 2013 (Tugendhat J)
Caborn-Waterfield v Gold & ors, heard 26 February 2013 (Tugendhat J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- Gagging Clauses For Whistleblowers: Worth The Paper They’re Written On? – James Laddie QC
- Mr Justice Eady to retire: some of his privacy and libel cases – Sara Mansoori
- Hacked Off, Leveson and the Royal Charter: Do this, says the press, and ministers do it – Brian Cathcart
- Journalisted, week ending 24 February 2013, Pistorius bail, Moody’s downgrade and Child poverty
- Hawaii’s new “anti-pap” laws – Michael Cameron
- Hacked Off: Top Ten Myths About Leveson
- Case Law: Waterson v Lloyd, honest comment and political discussion – Edward Craven
- Press self-regulation and the new media framework: How to define a ‘journalist’ – Fabrizio Cafaggi and Federica Casarosa
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.