Four current or former Mirror journalists were arrested last week by Metropolitan police officers on suspicion of conspiracy to hack mobile telephones, as Inforrm reported here. Those arrested were named as James Scott, editor of the People, Nick Buckley, deputy editor of the People, Tina Weaver, former Sunday Mirror editor, and Mark Thomas, former deputy editor of the Sunday Mirror. This was the first time the Mirror Group was brought into the phone hacking investigation.
This week is set to be a dramatic one for press reform, with MPs due to vote on the terms of a new press regulator set up by royal charter on Monday, after David Cameron halted cross-party talks on press regulation. The BBC sets out some of the events leading up to this here. The Guardian has a summary of key issues here. The campaign group Hacked Off is calling on supporters to encourage their MPs not to vote for David Cameron’s charter.
Meanwhile – at the time of writing – one of the latest developments is that according to the Guardian, the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Telegraph have suggested they would be prepared to boycott the proposed press regulatory body and set up their own body if statutory underpinning was given to the Royal Charter. There have, however, been reports that the three main parties have agreed on a form of Royal Charter with accompanying statute and that agreement will be announced later today. If this happens, the Defamation Bill is likely to proceed to its final stages in Parliament and to become law after Easter.
In Scotland, the Expert Group on Leveson established by the First Minister, Alex Salmond, has recommended a statutory recognition body, a regulator with jurisdiction over all publishers in Scotland and a “failsafe”, as Inforrm reported here. More from the BBC here.
The latest statistics on privacy injunctions have been published [PDF]. Cases aren’t specified, but for the period July to December 2012, there were three proceedings where the High Court “considered an application for a new interim injunction prohibiting the publication of private or confidential information“. All three injunctions were granted (two were “on-notice“).
Judgment was handed down in Thompson v James & Anor ( EWHC 515 (QB) (15 March 2013) /  EWHC 585 (QB) (15 March 2013)). Tugendhat J held the defendents’ defence of justification and dismissed a defamation claim brought by Thompson, who runs the “Carmarthenshire Planning Problems” blog, against Carmarthenshire County Council and its chief executive.
The first defendant, Mark James, also brought a Part 20 Claim for libel relating to five posts on the Claimant’s blog. Tugendhat J did not find that the counter claim was an abuse of process and found that three of the five posts bore defamatory meanings. The defence of honest comment was successful for the other two posts. Thompson was ordered to pay £25,000 damages, £5,000 of which represented aggravated damages, as 5RB reports in brief here [with a case report here]. Other reports can be found on the Independent and BBC sites. Thompson has issued a statement on her blog here; the Council issued a statement, with a comment from Mark James, here.
In settlement of a libel claim brought against him by Lord McAlpine, the Guardian columnist George Monbiot has agreed to do three years’ work for charities – £25,000 worth. On Tuesday, Monbiot repeated an apology for his tweets: “I sent tweets hinting that Lord McAlpine was the person discussed in the Newsnight investigation of child abuse in North Wales” … “As we now know, Newsnight’s story was completely wrong. In doing so, I helped to stoke an atmosphere of innuendo around an innocent man … I remain extremely sorry for the harm I helped to cause him.“
HoldtheFrontPage reports on the Daily Post in North Wales and its ‘Right to Tweet’ campaign, which calls on local authorities to allow journalists to tweet from council meetings. Most recently, the newspaper was prevented from tweeting at an employment tribunal.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in open court or apologies in the past week.
If there is anything to include in this section please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Journalism and regulation
There are no newly adjudicated PCC complaints, but several resolved ones, including:
Ms Hadar Sela v The Guardian, Clause 1, 15/03/2013; Dr Brooke Magnanti v The Herald (Glasgow), Clauses 1, 3, 14/03/2013; Wonga v the Daily Mail, Clause 1, 14/03/2013; Mr Oliver Ingham v The Independent, Clause 1, 14/03/2013;
A woman v Daily Mail, Clause 6, 14/03/2013; A woman v Daily Mail, Clause 9, 14/03/2013; Brigadier Paul Gibson The Mail on Sunday, Clause 1, 14/03/2013; Mr Joe Cooke The Sunday Times, Clauses 1, 3, 12, 14/03/2013; Dr Sasha Johari v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 14/03/2013; Marcus Davys v Daily Mail, Clauses 1, 6, 12/03/2013;
Mr Gordon Rennie v Edinburgh Evening News, Clause 1, 11/03/2013; Mr Gordon Rennie v Daily Record, Clause 1, 11/03/2013; Mr Gordon Rennie v The Daily Telegraph, Clause 1, 11/03/2013; A woman v Enfield Advertiser, Clause 1, 11/03/2013; The Gunn Family v John O’Groat Journal, Clause 1, 11/03/2013;
Dianne Denny v Ashford Herald, Clauses 1, 3, 11/03/2013; Ms Kate Johns v The Sun, Clause 1, 11/03/2013; Ms Kate Johns v Daily Mail, Clauses 1, 2, 11/03/2013; Ms Kate Johns v The Daily Telegraph, Clauses 1, 2, 11/03/2013; Holly Saunders v Bexhill-on-Sea Observer, Clause 9, 11/03/2013; Mrs Zoe Richardson v Barnsley Chronicle, Clause 1, 11/03/2013; HRH The Duke of York v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 11/03/2013.
PA Media Lawyer reports that the members of the “Foundation Group”, initiated by PCC chairman Lord Hunt, to oversee the beginning of a new press regulation system have been named as: the former cabinet secretary Lord Butler of Brockwell, ex-minister Lord Smith of Finsbury, former television executive Dame Susan Tinson and journalists Sir Simon Jenkins and Trevor Kavanagh. It is chaired by the former Supreme Court judge Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, who said: “This Foundation Group is an independent group set up to oversee the establishment of an independent appointments system and also to appoint the chair and members of an Appointment Panel who will select an Independent Board to lead the proposed new, independent self-regulatory body for news publishers”.
Research & resources
- Index on Censorship guest edits openDemocracy: ‘The Fight for Digital Freedom‘
- openDemocracy appeal: ‘Keep openDemocracy open‘
- Polis blog, ‘Newsmaking in the Twittersphere – some new international data on how journalism flows through the microblog network‘
- Out-Law.com: ‘Industry seeks standards on data security for ‘internet of things’ network‘
In the Courts
On 11 March 2013, Tugendhat J handed down judgment in Caborn-Waterfield v Gold  EWHC 440 (QB). The applications to strike out the whole of the claims was dismissed but the applications to strike out parts of the claim were successful.
Judgment was handed down in WXY v Gewanter & Ors ( EWHC 589). As One Brick Court notes here, damages were assessed in the sum of £24,950 for the Claimant, (£5,000 as aggravated damages) for her claim of breach of confidence, misuse of private information and harassment, a year after judgment was entered against the Third Defendant by Slade J (WXY v Gewanter & Ors  EWHC 496)
On 12 March 2013, Laws LJ refused permission to appeal in the case of Ismail v News Group Newspapers.
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.
9 April 2013, Scotsman conference: The Future of the Media in Scotland, The Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh.
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: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Australia: In the defamation case Rana v Google Australia Pty Ltd ( FCA 60) (7 February 2013), the Federal Court decided that Google Australia has no ability to control or manage the Google search engine, as the Lawyer reports here. Inforrm published a case comment by Gervase de Wilde here.
Somalia: A journalist who was jailed for interviewing a woman who alleged she had been raped by security forces has been freed by the Supreme Court in Somalia, as the BBC reports here.
US: The Wall Street Journal has revealed that last year the Justice Department opened “an investigation into allegations that employees at The Wall Street Journal’s China news bureau bribed Chinese officials for information for news articles“. A spokesman for News Corp’s Dow Jones, the publisher of the WSJ, said: “After a thorough review of our operations in China conducted by outside lawyers and auditors, we have not found any evidence of impropriety at Dow Jones.“
Next week in the courts
On Monday 18 March 2013, the trial in the case of ZAM v CFW will commenced before Tugendhat J. The case is listed for 5 days
On Tuesday 19 March 2013 a five day libel trial in the case of Fish v Myint will begin before a judge alone
Next week in Parliament
Monday 18 March, 2.30pm, Legislation – Crime and Courts Bill [HL] – Report stage (Day 2), Main Chamber, House of Commons.
Monday 18 March, 2.30pm, Legislation – Crime and Courts Bill [HL] – Third reading, Main Chamber, House of Commons.
Monday 18 March, 2.30pm, Legislation – Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill – Report stage (Day 5) – Viscount Younger of Leckie, Main Chamber, House of Lords.
Tuesday 19 March, 10.30am, Culture, Media and Sport select committee. Subject: Regulation of the press. Witness(es): Max Mosley; Seamus Dooley, Assistant General Secretary, National Union of Journalists, Location: The Grimond Room, Portcullis House.
The following reserved judgment after public hearings remains outstanding:
Rothschild v. Associated Newspapers heard 12 and 13 December 2012 (Laws, McCombe LJJ and Eady J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- News: The Defamation Bill and Leveson Amendments and Cross Party Talks
- Case Law: Rana v Google Australia – Google continues to resist claims for publication – Gervase de Wilde
- Twitter enters the courts in Ontario – Adam Lazier
- News: Four Mirror Journalists arrested over phone hacking
- News: Conservatives pull out of cross-party Leveson talks, Parliament will decide
- Case Law Canada: Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v Whatcott, Supreme Court upholds hate speech provisions – Aileen McColgan
- Hacked Off: Press Industry Statement on Leveson Talks: Inaccurate, Distorted and Unreliable
- News: Leveson, Scotland Expert Group Recommends Statute, Regulator for all Publishers and Failsafe
- Texas Bill Would Allow Publishers to Correct or Retract Content to Avoid Damages – Jillian Stonecipher
- David Cameron’s Charter opens the way for ministers to control the press – Brian Cathcart
- Case Law, Strasbourg: Eon v France, Satirical insult of head of state should not be a criminal offence – Rosalind English
- News, Scotland: Reactions to Report of Expert Group on Leveson: “Shameful” and “Draconian”?
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.