Last week was Week 6 of the Leveson evidence hearings. The Inquiry began to hear evidence from the press. We had a full report of the evidence on 15 January 2012. The Inquiry heard from the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Financial Times, the Independent, the Telegraph and from Express Newspapers. In addition to the editors and executives, the proprietor of Express Newspapers, Richard Desmond, gave evidence.
The Press Gazette reports that Charlotte Church is suing the The People newspaper for a story that alleged she proposed to her boyfriend while drunk and singing karaoke in a pub. Ms Church had previously denied the story in a public statement and discussed the article in her evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on 28 November 2011.
The High Court ruled that the BBC could film and broadcast an interview with Babar Ahmad, a terrorism suspect who has been detained in the UK without a trial for seven years, after the justice secretary Kenneth Clarke refused permission. BBC News has a report here.
In AMP v Persons Unknown  EWHC 3454 (TCC) (20 December 2011), in the Technology and Construction court, an applicant successfully invoked her right to privacy under Article 8, and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, and was granted an interim injunction to prevent transmission, storage and indexing of any part or parts of certain photographic images taken from the phone, and an anonymity order under CPR r.39.2(4), as explained by Rosalind English here. The Independent reported on the case here.
On the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism blog, Alex Antoniou analyses the recent decision in R v Peacock. We can celebrate for the outcome, he argues, but says that “obscenity law is not dead; at least, not yet“.
One hundred thousand freedom of information requests have now been made via mySociety’s “WhatDoTheyKnow.com” website since its launch in 2008. The site’s blog reflects on progress and challenges ahead for the project in this post:
“Our 100,000 request milestone comes at an interesting time for the Freedom of Information Act. It’s currently under scrutiny by the Justice Select Committee, who are investigating whether it works effectively and in the way that it was intended“.
The IPCC arrested a former Scotland Yard officer last Tuesday: former Scotland Yard officer DCS Dave Cook. In a statement, the IPCC said: “The arrest is the result of information passed to the IPCC by the Metropolitan Police Service team investigating Operation Elveden and relates to the alleged passing of unauthorised information to a journalist“. The Guardian has a report here. The Associated Press has additional detail in this report.
The European Commission will launch a public consultation to clarify the procedures for notice-and-action procedures and the EU’s E-Commerce Directive, reports Out-law.com. ZDNet also has a report here. The EU Commission’s statement can be found here.
The People newspaper reported that an actor on ITV’s Coronation Street, Michael Le Vell, who has been cleared of sex offence charges, would like to see a change in the law to protect the identity of sex case suspects. Press Gazette picked up on the story here.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
Journalism and the PCC
Richard Desmond’s comments about the McCanns and ethics caught headlines last week, but oral evidence from the Express also included interesting comments on the Press Complaints Commission and the decision to withdraw from the self-regulatory body. Paul Ashford, group editorial director, told the Inquiry that Northern & Shell would not sign up to the PCC as “presently constituted” but in the meantime the company “would continue to apply the principles – which the PCC also applies – to our newspapers“.
Twenty-two newly resolved cases have been publicised on the PCC site here, since the last Inforrm round-up. There are no new adjudications to report. Ofcom’s latest broadcast bulletin (9 January 2012) can be found here.
The blogger and author Richard Wilson has published correspondence with PCC chair Lord Hunt on his blog, about possible voluntary inclusion of bloggers in a self-regulatory system with “kitemarks”. Wilson concludes: “A better starting point, it seems to me, would be to insist that the UK government has no business trying to “regulate” the blogosphere beyond the constraints that already exist”.
In the Courts
On Friday 13 January 2012 the Administrative Court (Toulson LJ, Sweeney and Sharp JJ) heard a remarkable application in the case of R (on the application of Associated Newspapers) v Leveson Inquiry. Associated sought to quash a decision by Lord Justice Leveson to receive anonymous evidence from journalists in the week commencing 25 January 2012. It was argued by Associated that such evidence could damage the “rights and interests” of all tabloids, which “are, in a very real sense, on trial”. It was suggested that the public would reasonably have suspicions about all “predominantly tabloid and midmarket titles”. Mark Warby QC for the applicants described the ruling as
“incomplete and an incompletely reasoned balancing exercise which ignores reputational concerns and gives the superficial appearance of fairness”
The Administrative Court reserved judgment on the application.
We note two applications for permission to appeal. The first by Mr Rick Kordowski in the case of Law Society v Kordowksi ( EWHC 3185 (QB))(see Eddie Craven’s case comment). The second is by former “News of the World” editor Andy Coulson against the decision of Mr Justice Supperstone dismissing his claim for an indemnity in relation to criminal legal costs from his former employer (see Coulson v News Group Newspapers  EWHC 3482 (QB)). It appears that NGN has not lodged an appeal against the decision to the opposite effect in the case brought by Mr Glenn Mulcaire ( EWHC 3469 (Ch)).
17 January 2012, 6pm. Free Access to Legal Information: Roles in the expansion of liberty, the rule of law and democracy, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London.
25 -29 January 2012. Centre for Investigative Journalism annual film week. Series of investigative films, followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers. On Saturday 28 January, after the screening of The Whistleblower, there will be a networking party with opportunity to talk to the filmmakers and other journalists. City University London.
7 February 2012, The Media Society ‘The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism at the crossroads”
29 February 2012, 9am-2pm. ‘Justice Wide Open’. Half-day seminar on legal knowledge in a digital age, with speakers including Geoffrey Robertson QC, Hugh Tomlinson QC, Heather Brooke, Mike Dodd and Adam Wagner. Free to attend, but participants must register here. City University London.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
A journalist based in Goa is defending a defamation action brought by a regional newspaper after he published allegations “in which he claims a newspaper offered him media coverage for cash“, reports Press Gazette. The defendant has written about his case on his own blog, “Paid News in Goa”. The Hindu published a report of the sting in November 2011.
There has been an interesting discussion in the States regarding truthtelling and newspapers, after the New York Times’ public editor, Arthur Brisbane, penned a column asking for “reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about”. Jim Romenesko and Jay Rosen have posts on the debate.
Journalism.co.uk has a report by Marianne Bouchart on the significance of a French defamation case, Clearstream v Robert, which ended at the end of last year – after a ten year legal battle. Bouchart reports:
The landmark ruling stated that although the work of journalist Denis Robert contained inaccuracies, the thoroughness of his investigation and the public interest in the story outweighed the defamatory claims. The case has already been used as a legal precedent and could make the work of investigative journalists in France and beyond much easier.
A Turkish court has accused the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, of violating the privacy of children and breaking the law when filming orphanages in Turkey undercover for an ITV documentary, aired in 2008. The Guardian has a report here.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 16 January 2012 there will be a statement in open court in the case of Gascoigne v News Group Newspapers.
On Wednesday 18 January 2012 there is an application in the case of WXY v Gewanter – this is, as we understand, not related to the handing down of the reserved judgment mentioned below.
On Thursday 19 January 2012 there will be a pre-trial review before Mr Justice Vos in the phone hacking litigation the trial of which is due to begin on 13 February 2012.
On Friday 20 January 2012, the Administrative Court will hear an application by the “Sunday Times” for judicial review of decision requiring it to disclose emails relating to Chris Huhne MP to the police. There was a story about the case in the “Daily Mail”.
Next week in Parliament
Monday 16 January, 2.15pm: Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions. Witness(es): Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP, Lord Chancellor, Ministry of Justice, and Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, Attorney General (at 3.15pm). Location: The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.
Thursday 19 January, 2pm. Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions. Witness(es): (at 2.15pm) Evgeny Lebedev, Chairman, Independent Print Ltd and Evening Standard Ltd. Location: The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.
Next week at the Leveson Inquiry
Next week the Inquiry will hear from Trinity Mirror on Monday 16 January 2012, the Times and the Guardian on Tuesday 17 January 2012 and on Wednesday 19 January 2012 from Magazine Editors and Regional Editors.
Monday 16 January, 10:00 – 16:30. Trinity Mirror – Sly Bailey; Lloyd Embley; Nick Owens Andrew Penman; Richard Wallace; Tina Weaver; Vincent Moss (to be read); Kevin O’Sullivan (to be read); Vijay Vaghela (to be read); Paul Vickers (to be read).
Tuesday 17 January, 10:00 – 16:30. Private Eye – Ian Hislop. The Times –
James Harding; Thomas Mockridge; Susan Panuccio; Rupert Pennant-Rea; John Witherow; Pia Sarma (to be read); Darren Singer (to be read). The Guardian – Chris Elliott; Alan Rusbridger; Andrew Miller (to be read); Phil Boardman (to be read); Dame Elizabeth Forgan (to be read).
Wednesday 18 January, 10:00 – 16:30. Magazine Editors – Rosie Nixon (Hello! Magazine); Lisa Byrne (OK Magazine); Lucie Cave (Heat Magazine). Regional Editors –
Peter Charlton (Yorkshire Post); Noel Doran (Irish News); Spencer Feeney (South Wales Evening Post); Mike Gilson (Belfast Telegraph); Maria McGeoghan (Manchester Evening News); John McLellan (Scotsman); Nigel Pickover (Ipswich Evening Star).
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
WXY v Gewanter, heard 11-15, 18-19 July 2011 (Slade J)
Flood v Times Newspapers, heard 17 and 18 October 2011 (Supreme Court)
Cambridge v Makin, heard 3 November 2011 (Hughes, Black and Tomlinson LJJ)
McGrath v Dawkins and another, heard 10 and 11 November 2011 (HHJ Moloney QC).
Levy v. Coomber heard 9 and 16 November 2011 (HHJ Moloney QC).
Phillips v NGN, heard 28 and 29 November 2011 (Judge LCJ, Neuberger MR, Kay V-P)
El-Naschie v Macmillan, heard 11, 14, 16 to 18, 21, 22, 25, 28-30 November, 1 -2 December 2011 (Sharp J)
Hunt v Times Newspapers, heard 19 December 2011 (Eady J)
R (on the application of Associated Newspapers) v Leveson Inquiry, heard 13 January 2012 (Toulson LJ, Sweeney and Sharp JJ)
Also on Inforrm last week
- Dr Naik, hate speech and the principle of expectation. Rosalind English reflects on R (on the application of Naik) v Secretary of State for the Home Department ( EWCA Civ 1546), in which the Court of Appeal found that that the exclusion of an Indian Muslim public speaker from the United Kingdom after making statements which breached the Home Office’s “unacceptable behaviours policy” was lawful.
- Protecting the Unnamed Source: A journalistic privilege? A post by Damian Carney, Principal Lecturer in Law at the University of Portsmouth, focuses on the need to ensure one particular journalistic privilege – the protection of unnamed sources is actually available to a wider community of public communicators.
- Opinion: “Why did Leveson go soft on The Sun?” Martin Moore argues that while newspaper editors should be allowed to promote the good work they do, they should also be challenged, “particularly when they say things that are inconsistent, unfounded, or inaccurate”.
- Is Internet Access a Human Right? Adam Wagner, editor of the UK Human Rights blog, looks at a recent United Nations Human Rights Council report, which examined the important question of whether internet access is a human right.
- Case Law: Peter Andre v Katie Price – honest comment and the public interest. Gervase de Wilde looks at an action brought by Peter Andre against Katie Price ( EWHC 2572 (QB)) and explains that the decision clarified the status of the common law defence of honest comment in relation to the Human Rights Act.
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 event listings, suggestions and tips for future round up posts to jt.townend [at] gmail [dot] com.