Law and Media Round Up – 15 November 2010 [Updated]

15 11 2010

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.

News

The Ministry of Justice has published its 2011-2015 “Business Plan.  Under the heading “Assure better law”, this contains a timetable in relation to the plan to “Reform libel laws to protect freedom of speech”.  This is as follows:

  • Develop a draft Defamation Bill –  start: started – end: March 2011
  • Consult through publication of the draft Bill – start: March 2011 – end: June 2011
  • Amend draft Defamation Bill in light of consultation responses – start: July 2011 – end: April 2012
  • Introduce Defamation Bill in the second session of Parliament –  start: May 2012 – end: May 2012

We note two points arising from this.  First, the surprising disparity between the “consultation” and “amendment” periods – 4 months as against 10 months.  Second, the expressed intention to introduce a draft bill in the Second Session of Parliament contrasts with the statement by the Leader of the House on 11 November 2010, in answer to a question from Andrew George MP, that “The coalition Government intend to introduce a defamation Bill during this Session“.  It is not clear when the bill will be introduced.

The Ministry also proposes to “Introduce the recommendations in Lord Justice Jackson’s report into the funding and costs of civil litigation, subject to consultation” on the following timetable:

  • Consult on Lord Justice Jackson’s proposals for civil litigation funding and costs –  start: November 2010 – end: February 2011
  • Analyse consultation responses on funding arrangements for civil litigation and develop an implementation plan – start: February 2011 – end: March 2011
  • If necessary, introduce primary legislation – start: Spring 2011 – end: Spring 2011

The grant of a privacy injunction was reported by the “Daily Mail”.  He was said to be a “married sports star” but there does not appear to be a public judgment or a “DFT Order”.  We understand that judgment was reserved.  There was a further hearing on 12 November 2010 in the privacy case of JIH v News Group Newspapers (see our post on the most recent judgment).  Judgment was reserved.

[Update] Another “super-injunction” has come to light.  It is reported that, months ago, the family of Paul and Rachel Chandler obtained a  “super-injunction”, prohibiting the media from reporting any developments in their case.  The argument was that

“speculation about their health, about any possible ransom and on the negotiations about their release might prolong their captivity. The injunction was designed to protect the safety of the Chandlers”

The injunction prevented reporting until the Chandlers were both in the custody of Foreign Office officials and outside Somalia.  The BBC respected the injunction although it is suggested that some other news organisations did not.  The story is told by BBC World News editor Jon Williams on his blog.

Such were the fears for their safety – and so dangerous is Somalia – that the injunction set out two criteria that needed to be met before we could report the couple’s release; first Paul and Rachel Chandler must have left Somalia, and second, they must be in the custody of Foreign Office officials.

The Guardian reports that former FA Chairman, Lord Triesman, has formally complained to the Press Complaints Commission about the article in the Mail on Sunday that forced his resignation as chair of the FA and England’s 2018 World Cup bid.

The Outlaw site has a post by its editor, Struan Robertson, entitled “Hasty legislation will make a mess of Europe’s ‘right to be forgotten‘”.  The so-called “right to oblivion” is an important aspect of privacy which we will consider in a future post.

Journalism and the PCC

The PCC Watch blog reports this week on the “PCC Open Day” in Southampton.  It reports on the question and answer session including a question as to whether the Code will now be applied to the Twitter feeds of news organisations and other online forms of news publication.  It reports that

Stephen Abell clarified that the PCC is currently looking into how best to apply the Code to Twitter, and that there must be a distinction made between personal journalist feeds and news organisations. But yes, Abell said, there is a strong argument for the PCC to cover new technologies.

In the Courts

Two of the three libel trials listed in the High Court in London this week were compromised on the first day.    The prospective jury trial in Ronaldo v Telegraph Group was settled with a Statement in Open Court on the first day.  It is beginning to look likely that the whole of 2010 will pass without a libel jury trial.

The trial in the case of Wyatt v Cartwright, was settled on the first morning of the trial before Sir Charles Gray. There was also a statement in Open Court – which is reported in the “Southern Reporter”.

The third trial, Cambridge v Makin, ran its full five days before Mr Justice Tugendhat, sitting without a jury.  Judgment was reserved on Friday 12 November 2010.

In Ifedha v Archant Regional Ltd ([2010] EWHC 2819 (QB)) Mr Justice Tugendhat upheld a decision of the Master striking out a claim for £820,000 libel damages for an article the Kilburn Times linking the claimant to prostitution.  There is a report of the decision on the 5RB website and discussion in the Press Gazette.

The same judge also handed down judgment in the case of Cairns v Modi [2010] EWHC  (QB)).  This is discussed on the Outlaw website.  We had a post on this case earlier in the week.

Media and Freedom of Expression Law in Other Jurisdictions

In the New Zealand High Court case of Lee v New Korea Herald Limited ([2010] NZHC 1940) Heath J awarded damages of NZ$250,000 against a Korean language newspaper which alleged that the plaintiff had been arrested, tried and convicted of criminal offences, was involved in dishonest and fraudulent practices (including bribery of public officials) and had acted unethically or immorally.

In the case of Mundine v Brown (No 6) [2010] NSWSC 1285 Harrison J, in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, awarded damages of Aus$60,000 in respect of an allegation that the plaintiff, who was not named, was an incompetent Aboriginal mental health worker.  The defence of common law qualified privilege was rejected.

In Ireland judgment is now available in Watters v Independent Star Limited [2010] IECC 1 –  a circuit court decision granting a declaration pursuant to s. 28(1) of the Defamation Act, 2009 that the defendant published false and defamatory statements concerning the plaintiff.

The Irish Times reports that Wayne O’Donoghue who was released two years ago after serving a sentence for killing 11-year- old Robert Holohan, has settled a libel action against TV3.

In Canada, it is reported that a prominent Indian radio station owner, who was targeted in a drive-by shooting in the Indian-dominated Vancouver suburb of Surrey in September, has been ordered to pay damages after a default judgment in a defamation case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.  The matter is widely reported in the press in India (see, for example, the “Economic Times“).

The Namibian periodical “Informanté” has reported that it has successfully defended a libel claim brought by Oshakati Police Inspector Nico Steenkamp who was demanding N$3 million in damages after Informanté on 20 November 2008, published a story entitled “Top cop accused of favouring love interests.”  The judgment does not appear to be available.

The judgment in the Singapore libel case of Chan Cheng Wah Bernard and others v Koh Sin Chong Freddie [2010] SGHC 324 is now available.  The claim was dismissed on the basis of a successful defence of justification.

US Law and Media News

Once again, this will be the subject of a separate post.

Events

No events have been drawn to our attention for next week.

The Blogs

Afua Hirsch’s Guardian Law Blog has a post on the three recent cases arising out of tweets.  She poses the question as to whether, following arrests, convictions and libel claims, tweeting has lost its innocence.

The Cearta.ie blog has a post on “Blasphemy from Ancient Greece to Modern Ireland” dealing with a lecture by David Nash on this subject.

Next Week in the Courts

We are not presently aware of any media cases listed in the next week.

Reserved Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

Clift v Slough BC heard 23 and 24 June 2010 (Ward, Thomas and Richards LJJ).

Spiller v Joseph heard 26 and 27 July 2010 (Lords Phillips, Rodger, Walker and Brown and Sir John Dyson).

Bowker v Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, heard 21 October 2010 (Sharp J).

Berezovsky -v- Vladimir Terluk & anr heard 9 November 2010 (Mummery and Sedley LJJ)

Cambridge v Makin, heard 8 to 12 November 2010 (Tugendhat J)

– defence of common law qualified privilege – where matter complained of published in newspaper circulating in Clarence Valley – where plaintiff not named in article – whether publication to entire readership of paper or only those persons who identified the plaintiff from extrinsic facts – held publication to all recipients – defence of qualified privilege rejected – DAMAGES – hurt to feelings and loss of reputation – plaintiff employed as Aboriginal mental health worker – defamatory imputation that she was incompetent as such – where plaintiff the only Aboriginal mental health worker in Clarence Valley – defamation substantial – plaintiff awarded $60,000 – no aggravated damages
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2 responses

15 11 2010
Media Point » Law and Media Round Up – 15 November 2010 « Inforrm's Blog

[…] See the article here: Law and Media Round Up – 15 November 2010 « Inforrm's Blog […]

19 11 2010
Paul Tweed

Now that the Ministry of Justice have announced a timetable for the forthcoming review of UK Libel legislation, in response to unprecedented pressure from the media and following what has been one of the most successful US lobbying campaigns since that initiated by the tobacco industry some years ago, it will be interesting to see how the Government reacts to this totally unjustified clamour for reform.
I say this particularly bearing in mind the embarrassment caused to the American lobbyists and legislators as a result of the recently published statistics establishing beyond any doubt that, contrary to press speculation on both sides of the Atlantic, the number of international libel claims brought before the UK Courts has been miniscule, thereby further exposing the totally disproportionate response to what is, to all intents and purposes, a “non issue”.
Of even more significance will be the reaction of our Courts to requests for enforcement of US judgments against UK citizens and companies in cases involving grossly excessive punitive damages and attorneys’ fees, the latter often amounting to almost fifty percent of the damages awarded. To reverse the argument put forward by the lobbyists in the US Libel Tourism debate, such judgments would never be countenanced by a UK Court and the scale of such awards are offensive to all basic principles of British law.
If we are to believe everything we read in the press and the extensive coverage of the so called libel tourism problem, then you would think that the UK Courts were being besieged by multiple claims from numerous international litigants seeking to obtain justice by the back door, which is of course nonsense as the facts and figures have now established. The truth of the matter is that the media have seized upon an opportunity to snuff out one of the last opportunities for the general public to seek redress from an increasingly reckless press, who already have the financial clout to see off any unfortunate individual having the temerity to take them on, unless that individual is a man of substantial means.
Unfortunately the powerful lobbying platform enjoyed by the press is not available to the supporters of our Defamation laws, in what has been, at best, a one sided debate in the media.
The irony is that the UK broadsheets are generally regarded to be among the most credible and respected in the world, which is in no small measure due to our fair and balanced libel laws!
Paul Tweed
Senior Partner
Belfast | Dublin | London
w: http://www.johnsonslaw.com
b: http://www.globallibeldebate.com

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