In this regular feature we draw attention to the last week’s law and media news and next week’s upcoming events. If readers have any news or events which they would like to draw attention to please add them by way of comments on this post.
The biggest media law story of the week concerned the conviction of Jon Venables for the possession of indecent image of children. There has been a media feeding frenzy, culminating in a misconceived application to remove the anonymity orders which have been in place since 2001. The legal issues are discussed in an article in the Guardian. We will consider the case further in a post later in the week.
Chris Wheal, a journalist who had to deal with journalists when his nephew was killed in a freak accident has written about the experience on his blog, He has also made the point that that there is a crucial difference between the National Union of Journalists’ code of conduct and the editors’ code of practice, that is administered by the Press Complaints Commission. These issues are considered by Roy Greenslade on his blog, asking the question “is it time to amend the editors’ code?” The issue is also discussed on Jon Slattery’s blog and on Tabloid Watch.
We published an “appreciation” of departed Times Legal Manager Alastair Brett earlier in the week. In general, the media coverage of his departure has been muted. The Independent had a diary piece on Monday and the Guardian and the Lawyer had short articles. There was a post on Joshua Rozenberg’s blog. From the Times, so far, silence. Their last mention of him appears to be to quote his reaction to the Flood decision.
The Tech and Law Blog has an interesting post about “Email disclaimers” – which provides copies of two opinions from Martin Howe QC analysing the legal implications of disclaimers and legal notices in emails.
From the Blogs
The UK Human Rights Blog has a discussion about the fall out from the decision in Flood v Times Newspapers under the not entirely neutral headline “Press freedom defeat continues to sting”
The Strasbourg Observer blog has a post about the case of Sapan v. Turkey (8 June 2010) which concerned the seizure of a book about “stardom” and a particular pop singer who had complained about the book which partly reproduced the author’s a doctoral thesis. The Court emphasised the importance of academic freedom and held that the book addressed the social phenomenon of stardom. It could not be compared with the tabloid press, or gossip columns, whose role was generally to satisfy the curiosity of a certain type of reader about details of celebrities’ private lives. As a result the seizure was a violation of Article 10.
The New Zealand Media Law Journal blog discusses the accuracy standards in the New Zealand Broadcasting Code of Practice – and how attempts to loosen the standards ended with them being tightened up.
There is an interesting blogpost from Brian Walters in Melbourne suggesting that Australia might need “Anti-SLAPP” legislation – statutes to prevent Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation.
The Concurring Opinions blog has a statistical analysis of the influence of law blogs over the past 4 years in terms of citations in journals and cases.
US Law and Media News
Once again, this will be the subject of a separate post.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
It is reported that, in Ireland, two young victims of sexual abuse have brought a High Court action claiming that details contained in media reports of their attacker’s conviction for abusing them resulted in their loss of their anonymity and breached their constitutional right to privacy
In Derick Sands v Channel Seven Adelaide  SASC 202 the full Court in South Australia dismissed an appeal by an unsuccessful defamation plaintiff. Channel 7 published a promotion which described the appellant as “a suspect in a murder case”. The judge had correctly found that that there were reasonable grounds to suspect the appellant of murder.
In Manock v Channel Seven Adelaide Pty Ltd  SASC 198 Channel was refused leave to plead an entirely new defence of justification in a libel claim brought by forensic pathologist Dr Colin Manock.
Apologies and Settlements
The Mail on Sunday has apologised to Chelsea Football Club and its head of communications, Steve Atkins, after publishing a story suggesting they attempted to silence claims involving Ashley Cole. The apology is reported in the Press Gazette.
A number of other settlements in media cases have been announced this week. We have already blogged about the most high profile, the “false privacy” case brought by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt against the News of the World. This settlement is reported on the news section of the 5RB website and is discussed on the US blog Unruly of Law – which, perhaps understandably mistakenly regards this “false privacy” case as being a claim in a libel.
Actor and DJ Mohammed Michael George’s claim against the Star was settled by a Statement in Open Court on 19 July 2010. The Star apologised for allegations concerning bad behaviour at a party.
On 22 July 2010 Express Newspapers apologised and agree to pay damages of £60,000 to the trustees of a charity which it reported was linked to the Palestinian organisation Hamas. There was a Statement in open court which is reported in the Press Gazette. Details of the settlement can be found on the Carter-Ruck website,
In the Courts
On 22 July 2010 Mr Justice Eady considered costs and permission to appeal in the case of Baturina v Times ( EWHC 696 (QB)) – a case in which he gave judgment on 31 March 2010. He gave both sides permission to appeal and awarded the defendant 70% of its costs.
On 23 July 2010 Mr Justice Stadlen gave judgment striking out the cliam in Kaschke v Gray, ( EWHC 1907 (QB)). This case has generated a lot of comment in the blogosphere. The defendants’ victory is noted by Index on Censorship. Jack of Kent (who as part of his day job, was working for one of the defendants) has an interesting post on the background to the case – written before judgment was handed down – in which he suggests that the fact that the case has got so far shows “there is something wrong about the law of libel”. Well, perhaps all it shows is that litigants in person can bring claims which the courts find are misconceived. We are not aware of any proposed libel reform which will prevent people from bringing bad cases. Anyone who has any doubt about this should read our weekly US round ups which provide weekly examples of bad libel cases brought even in a system which is wholly unbalanced in favour of defendants. Meanwhile Joanna Kaschke has a post on “False interpretations of the judgment” – the last in a series over the past few days which makes it clear that she was not happy with the judgment and intends to take the case to Strasbourg.
No events have been reported to us.
Next Week in the Courts
On Monday 26 July 2010, the libel trial in Bryce v Barber will begin in front of Mr Justice Tugendhat and a jury. This is the first libel jury trial since Desmond v Bower. This gap of 368 days between libel jury trials appears to be the longest in English legal history. Mr Benjamin Pell suggests that the previous record was 332 days (ending with the trial in Howlett v Holding on 23 May 2005).
On Monday 26 July 2010 Eady J will hear an application in the case of TUV v Persons Unknown – a case in which he gave a judgment on 22 April 2010 ( EHWC 853 (QB)). We have no information as to the nature of the application.
Monday 26 July 2010 is also the first day of the hearing of Joseph v Spiller in the UK Supreme Court. Our case preview can be found here.
On 29 July 2001 judgment will be given in Imerman v Tchenguiz (and linked appeals), heard 10 to 11 May 2010 by the Master of the Rolls, Moses and Munby LJJ.
The following reserved judgment remains outstanding:
Clift v Slough BC heard 23 and 24 June 2010 (Ward, Thomas and Richards LJJ).