“Hot tubbing” featured in the Leveson Inquiry at the end of 2011, but it was a sauna that caught the headlines in the first libel trial of the year. As the Telegraph reports, details of Lord Mandelson’s visit to a Siberian steam ‘banya‘ were disclosed during Rothschild v Associated Newspapers, heard last week by Tugendhat J, without a jury.
The Daily Mail, which is being sued for an article published in 2010, reported that Rothschild “is seeking ‘very substantial damages’… over an article which he claims painted him as a ‘puppet-master’ willing to exploit his friendship with Mr Mandelson to impress his business associate Mr [Oleg] Deripaska”. Judgment was reserved. The FT has a report here and a story by PA Media Lawyer is available here.
Lord Justice Leveson’s focus broadened to broadcasting and blogs this week, with witnesses including ITN’s head of compliance, John Battle, PopBitch’s Camilla Wright, David Allen Green, Lord Patten and Mark Thompson. Inforrm reported on the details of Week 8 here. Lord Patten discussed his case against Harper Collins after it abandoned publication of his book; the Sun’s Gary O’Shea and Stephen Waring answered questions on the paper’s coverage of Chris Jefferies’ arrest; and Bob Crow accused private investigator Steve Whittamore of “blagging” confidential information from the DVLA.
The session on Thursday morning with Google’s legal director, Daphne Keller, and head of corporate communications in Europe, David-John (DJ) Collins, provided a useful insight into the search giant’s handling of legal complaints. Keller said it was Google’s “clear policy” to honour court orders and “to process removals based on that“. “[I]t’s very helpful to us because it takes us out of the sort of looking at this ‘he said, she said’ situation,” she added.
In the afternoon, Facebook’s director of public policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Richard Allan, claimed that defamation complaints could have an expected turnaround time of 24 to 48 hours, with a specialist legal team dedicated to handling notices:
“In many cases it can be fairly obvious, a trademark or a copyright violation, for example, can be very straightforward. Some forms of defamation can be very straightforward, particularly where the case is well known.”
A tweeting intellectual property barrister has been struck off by the Bar Standards Board, according to the Telegraph. David Harris, who tweeted anonymously as @geeklawyer, was criticised by the BSB for his tweets, but more significantly for not disclosing his role in the website – Newzbin – he was defending. The Charon QC blog discussed the episode here. Harris appears to have responded to a post on the Legal Cheek blog here.
Meanwhile, tweeting was banned in the Harry Redknapp trial at Southwark Crown Court, after a journalist tweeted the name of a juror and about evidence given by a witness under oath in the absence of the jury. The matter has been referred to the Attorney General, according to Legal Week, which has a report here.
A former local newspaper journalist has been given a ten-year anti-social behaviour order “for writing ‘offensive’ blogs about members of his local community“, according to industry site HoldtheFrontPage. Christopher Perry, 65, said he would now consider the possibility of pursuing judicial review of the Hull Magistrates Court decision. Hull Daily Mail has a report here.
There has been renewed attention on the Times’ unmasking of the blogger NightJack, as noted in last week’s round-up. The issue was raised at the Leveson Inquiry during David Allen Green’s evidence when a letter by Times’ editor James Harding was read out. Earlier in the week MP Tom Watson asked police to investigate the hacked email account in a letter he copied to the Attorney General.
There was evidence of further friction between News International and Tom Watson after national media were quick to report that Tom Watson’s intern had naively tweeted a joke about “twit-rape”. On his blog, Watson questioned the Sun’s political account (@sun_politics) decision to re-tweet the unfortunate tweet (which they now appear to have deleted).
The psychic Sally Morgan has commenced her libel action against the Daily Mail, for an article published in September 2011 entitled “What a load of crystal balls!” Press Gazette has details of the writ here. In December, David Allen Green reported on the letter-before-action here.
Four journalists from the Sun have been arrested by the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Elveden on suspicion of “aiding and abetting misconduct in public office“. This is reported to be as a result of information supplied by the News Corporation Management and Standards Committee. As reported by Inforrm here, there have now been 13 arrests as part of the investigation into payments to police officers and, in total, 32 arrests arising out of phone hacking and related investigations.
Richard Wilson, author of Don’t Get Fooled Again, reports that a state-funded primary school in London, the Durand School, has accumulated over £387,000 in legal costs – including those incurred during a successful libel case against the father of a former teacher – since 2008, according to a Freedom of Information disclosure (PDF).
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
Last week’s Independent on Sunday published an apology to the Sun for an article in April 2011:
“On 10 April last year in an article headlined ‘Royals believe Eugenie and Beatrice targeted’ we reported suspicions held by Prince Andrew that his daughters’ phones may have been hacked. Our article implied that hacking may have been carried out by The Sun newspaper. The Sun has asked us to point out that there is no evidence whatsoever any such hacking was carried out by the title or on behalf of the title. We are happy to make the position clear.“
For a regular apology-tracking service we recommend Craig Silverman’s ‘Regret the Error’ blog on Poynter, which notes apologies in British as well as American titles.
Journalism and the PCC
Just before Christmas, the Bibliophylax blog listed and categorised all the Daily Express headlines of the year, and now blogger Scott Bryan has repeated the exercise for the Daily Star (Hat-tip: Tabloid Watch).
There are no adjudicated PCC complaints to report but resolved complaints include: Sally Low v The Independent, Clause 1, 27/01/2012; Mr Syed Ahmad v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 26/01/2012; Mr Colin Philip v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 26/01/2012; David Bret v The Sun, Clause 1, 26/01/2012; Mr Damien Collis v The Daily Telegraph, Clause 1, 26/01/2012, Mr Peter Reynolds v Lancashire Telegraph, Clause 1, 26/01/2012 Karen Birch v Oldham Evening Chronicle, Clause 1, 24/01/2012; Jemima Khan v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 23/01/2012.
The PCC will give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry this week (see below).
Ofcom has revoked the broadcasting licence of Iranian channel, Press TV (as announced here) after it discovered during the course of a sanction case that Press TV was editorially controlled from Tehran, which its London-based licence did not cover. The full revocation decision is available here.
Research & resources
Inforrm will publish a round up of recent academic articles and resources from the previous six months later this week.
In the Courts
The first libel trial of the year, Rothschild v Associated Newspapers, took place on Monday to Thursday, 23 to 26 January 2012 before Tugendhat J (without a jury).
On 24 January 2012, HHJ Parkes QC heard an application in the case of Singh v Singh. Judgment was reserved.
[Update] On 27 January 2012 HHJ Parkes QC gave judgment in the case of Patel v United ( EWHC 92 (QB)), heard on 20 January 2012. This was a Norwich Pharmacal case where an order had been made originally on 30 September 2011 by Lindblom J. A further order was made for examination of material relating to an internet forum by an independent expert.
7 February 2012, The Media Society ‘The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism at the crossroads’
8 February 2012, UCL/Bindmans Annual Debate ‘Freedom of the Press versus Privacy Rights: Time for Parliament to draw the line?’
28 February 2012, 1pm, ‘Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom‘ – Rebecca MacKinnon’, at Polis, LSE, Clement House Room 302 (Third Floor), Clement House, 99 Aldwych.
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
Given the number of twitter-related incidents last week, it seems appropriate to include this link to paidContent’s round up of US cases illustrating ‘five ways Twitter is changing media law’.
Reporters Without Borders has published its annual Press Freedom Index, which sees Finland at number one, and Eritrea in 179th place. The full table can be downloaded here. The organisation commented:
“It is no surprise that the same trio of countries, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea, absolute dictatorships that permit no civil liberties, again occupy the last three places in the index. This year, they are immediately preceded at the bottom by Syria, Iran and China, three countries that seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror, and by Bahrain and Vietnam, quintessential oppressive regimes. Other countries such as Uganda and Belarus have also become much more repressive.“
Inforrm has previously reported on the Scottish Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act. On 20 January it received Royal Assent, as announced by the Minister for Community Safety. eGovmonitor has a report here. A commencement order will now be laid by the Scottish Government to bring the new laws into force on March 1.
The chair of the Bulgarian Judges Association (BJA), Miroslava Todorova, may file a libel claim against Bulgaria’s interior minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, reports a Sofia-based news agency, Novinite. According to the report, “in a spate of media appearances, Tsvetanov accused Todorova of patronizing organized crime and of being incompetent at her job“.
Next week in the courts
On Monday 30 January 2012 Eady J will hand down judgment in Hunt v Times Newspapers (heard 19 December 2011)
On Tuesday 31 January 2012, Tugendhat J will continue the hearing of the CMC in Kim & anr v Tong & ors (part heard from 7 October 2011).
On Wednesday 1 February 2012, the Court of Appeal (Judge LCJ, Neuberger MR, Kay V-P) will hand down judgment in the cases of Phillips v NGN and Coogan v NGN, (heard 28 and 29 November 2011). The issue in the cases is whether Glenn Mulcaire can rely on his privilege against self-incrimination to refuse to answer questions about the hacking of telephones in cases which did not form part of the original prosecution.
On the same date the Court of Appeal will hear an oral application for permission to appeal against the decision of Sharp J in the case of Diwany v The Ministry of Justice and the Police Norway ( EWHC 2077 (QB)).
On 1 or 2 February 2012, the Court of Appeal (Pill and Elias LJJ and Sharp J) will hear an appeal against the decision of Eady J in Ashcroft v Foley ( EWHC 1710 (QB)).
On Friday 3 February 2012, Vos J will hear the second Pre-Trial Review in the voicemail interception litigation. The nature and scope of the trial to be heard on 13 February 2012 is likely to be made clear at this hearing.
On the same date there is an application in the case of Cairns v Modi (now listed for trial on 5 March 2012)
Next week at the Leveson Inquiry
Monday 30 January, 10:00 – 16:30, Stephen Abell (director, Press Complaints Commission); Tim Toulmin (former director, PCC)
Tuesday 31 January, 10:00 – 16:30, Lord Grade (commissioner, PCC), Lord Hunt (chairman, PCC), Sir Christopher Meyer (former chair, PCC)
Wednesday 1 February, 10:00 – 16:30, Lord Black (Press Board of Finance), Colette Bowe (Ofcom), Guy Parker (Advertising Standards Agency), Ed Richards (Ofcom)
Next week in Parliament
Monday 30 January, 2.15pm, Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, Witness(es): Lord Allan of Hallam, Director of Policy in Europe, Facebook, DJ Collins, Vice President, Global Policy and Communications, Google, and Alexander MacGillivray, General Counsel, Twitter (via video link); Phil Hall, Chairman, PHA Media and Former Editor of the News of the World and Hello!, and Max Clifford, Max Clifford Associated Ltd. Location: The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House
Thursday 2 February, 10.15am, Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, Dominic Mohan, Editor, The Sun, Richard Caseby, Group Managing Editor, and Justin Walford, Deputy Legal Manager, News Group Newspapers; Lord Hunt of Wirral, Chair, Press Complaints Commission. Location: The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House
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).
El-Naschie v Macmillan, heard 11, 14, 16 to 18, 21, 22, 25, 28-30 November, 1 -2 December 2011 (Sharp J)
Lord Ballyedmond & anr v Trimble, heard 18 January 2012 (Tugendhat J)
Woodrow v Johansson, heard 19 January 2012 (HHJ Parkes QC)
Singh v Singh, heard 24 and 25 January 2012 (HHJ Parkes QC)
Rothschild v Associated Newspapers, heard 23-26 January 2012 (Tugendhat J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- News: European Data Protection reforms – the main innovations – Gervase de Wilde
- Why the US Web Piracy Bills walked the Plank – Kirsten Sjovoll
- Inforrm: New Feature – Resources
- Leveson: Could Press Regulation include Libel Arbitration? – Hugh Tomlinson QC
- Should bankers be named and shamed? Strasbourg latest – Rosalind English
- Inforrm Blog – Happy Second Birthday
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.