Five employees of The Sun have been arrested on suspicion of corruption, aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office, and conspiracy in relation to both these offences: Geoff Webster, deputy editor; John Edwards, picture editor; John Kay, chief reporter; Nick Parker, chief foreign correspondent; and John Sturgis, deputy news editor. “A Ministry of Defence official, a member of the armed forces and a policeman were also arrested over allegations that journalists paid officials for information. All eight were later released on bail,” reported the AFP.
The newspaper “is suffering its biggest crisis since Rupert Murdoch acquired it in 1969,” writes Roy Greenslade. The Financial Times has reproduced New International CEO Tom Mockridge’s memo to staff here (subscription required), which states “We must take care not to prejudge the outcome of the police interviews. It is vitally important for all those involved that proper due process should take its course. The company has provided legal support to those interviewed today“. The FT also has a thorough report, with detail of the Management and Standards Committee and possibly implications in the US here.
Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff wrote a piece for the Guardian encouraging News Corp. to sell the Sun: “Use the proceeds (I’d guess £500m to £700m) to endow an independent trust that will run the Times and Sunday Times (…)”. (Comments are closed as the article relates to ongoing legal proceedings, as Janine Gibson, editor in chief of Guardian US, explained on Twitter. Wolff simply tweeted back “You Brits“).
Last Wednesday, legal twittering was dominated by Leveson, the phone hacking settlements (see below), the Harry Redknapp verdict and the “Twitter joke trial“. The latter was the High Court appeal of a Doncaster Magistrates’ Court decision to prosecute Paul Chambers for an offence under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, sending a message of a menacing character by means of a public electronic communications network. Chambers’ earlier Crown Court appeal was unsuccessful. Carl Gardner has an excellent post on the case here. David Allen Green, who is acting for Chambers, listed some of the previous coverage here.
On the same day, it was announced that nine of the ten phone hacking cases due for trial had settled. The only remaining case – which will now be tried on 27 February 2012 – is that brought by Charlotte, James and Maria Church. Reuters has a news report here. Channel 4 News’ report contained a video of Steve Coogan’s statement. Alastair Campbell made a statement on his blog here. However, it was also reported that six new cases had been filed, with a further 50 being prepared.
The Metropolitan Police conceded the “phone hacking” judicial review case brought by Chris Bryant MP, former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott, ex Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick, Ben Jackson and an anonymous claimant, “HJK”, and agreed to a declaration that it had breached the claimants’ Article 8 rights. The MPS statement can be found here. The Telegraph has a report here. Bindmans, which represented the claimants, has published statements and a list of press coverage here.
In a question to Jeremy Hunt on 9 February, Chris Bryant MP commented on his phone hacking legal costs and suggested that “[g]iven the changes to the conditional fee agreements that the Government are pushing through, may I suggest that it might be a good idea to have a small claims court for privacy and libel cases?”
Hunt replied: “Without wishing to pre-empt what Lord Justice Leveson says, I think the hon. Gentleman’s idea may have some merit. We will look into it and see whether it is something that we can pursue.”
The billionaire financier Nathaniel Rothschild lost his libel action against the Daily Mail last week, which contested the paper’s portrayal of his role in bringing Lord Mandelson (then European Commissioner for Trade) together with the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. PA Media Lawyer reported here: “After the decision was given by Mr Justice Tugendhat, who heard the case at London’s High Court without a jury, Mr Rothschild, who was not present, said in a statement that he intended to appeal”. Reuters reports here and the FT here. The full judgment is Rothschild v Associated Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 177 (QB) (10 February 2012).
The RPC blog has a good post on the long-awaited decisions in the privacy cases Axel Springer and von Hannover, in which the ECHR Grand Chamber found in favour of freedom of expression. The blogger Alan Rich questions the scale of the victory here. Inforrm ran several pieces:
- Case Law: Von Hannover v Germany (No.2) – Unclear clarification and unappreciated margins – Kirsten Sjøvoll
- Case Law: Axel Springer v Germany, Grand Chamber finds violation of Article 10 – Sara Mansoori
- News: Axel Springer and Von Hannover – Victory for the Media in the Grand Chamber
As reported by the UK Human Rights Blog, the ECHR has rejected an application by Times Newspapers for its conviction for contempt of court in 2009, in Michael Alexander Seckerson and Times Newspapers Ltd v UK (Applications nos. 32844/10 and 33510/10).
Neil Mann, Sky News digital news editor, claimed on Twitter that he had “just learned that Guardian reporters can only now tweet from court if they have spoken to the legal dept & attended a training course“, after a Guardian journalist tweeted the name of a juror during the Harry Redknapp trial.
PA Media Lawyer reported on 3 February that the Attorney General was investigating the case, but the Guardian declined to comment. US-based reporter Ron Sylvester, one of the first known court tweeters, quipped: “There is training for court tweeting now? I have started a cottage industry and somehow missed it.”
Earlier in the week it was reported that footballer Joey Barton will not face legal action for his tweets about John Terry and his forthcoming trial, and the Guardian subsequently published this comment piece by the Attorney General Dominic Grieve which argued:
“The inexorable rise of the internet and the citizen journalist presents us all with challenges for the future. We must work in collaboration to ensure the highest professional standards are maintained at the same time as press freedom and that the right of freedom of expression is not abused by individuals to undermine the fairness of our system of justice“.
The three major broadcasters are pushing for television cameras in court, with a call to the Government to partially lift the ban. The letter from Sky, BBC and ITN can be found here.
The UK Supreme Court has started tweeting (@uksupremecourt). The Human Rights Blog noted it had “already beaten its own Twitter policy’s prediction of “2-3 tweets a week” with eight on its first day.”
Finally, “the final week of module one brought the Leveson Inquiry to an explosive, if temporary, conclusion,” reported Natalie Peck for Inforrm here, in her round up of the Inquiry’s tenth week. She separately reported on Paul Dacre’s appearance here.
Statements in Open Court, Corrections and Apologies
We are not aware of any statements in Open Court.
Journalism and the PCC
A newly published book in the US examines the “lifespan of a fact” through seven years of “arguments, negotiations, and revisions” between essayist John D’Agata and fact checker Jim Fingal. An extract explaining the project’s origin appeared in Harper’s Magazine here. [Hat-tip: Poynter’s Regret the Error blog.]
The PCC’s director, Stephen Abell, is to step down later this month. Bell Pottinger’s Michael McManus has been appointed “director of transition” as part of a new senior team. His biographical details are here [PDF]. He previously worked with the PCC’s chair, Lord Hunt from 2004 to 2010 as a political and policy adviser.
There was one new PCC adjudication last week: Rod Hemley’s complaint against the Herald & Post (Luton) was upheld under clauses 1 (accuracy) and 5 (intrusion into grief or shock). The PCC summarised the ruling here. Press Gazette has a report here.
Newly resolved cases include: Nathaniel Rothschild v The Observer (Clause 1) 10/02/2012; A man v Grimsby Evening Telegraph (Clause 1) 08/02/2012; A woman v Hinckley Times (Clause 1) 08/02/2012; Ellen Yianni v Daily Mail (Clause 1) 08/02/2012; Nathalie Dye v Daily Mail (Clause 1 and 5) 08/02/2012; Nathalie Dye v The Sun (Clause 1 and 5) 08/02/2012.
BBC World News broadcast an apology on 11 February 21012 for broadcasting programmes that broke rules ensuring that programmes are “free, from commercial or other outside pressures“. The original ruling was made in November 2011 [PDF]. The Independent, which pursued this story, reported here. The BBC Trust’s statement can be found here [PDF].
Research and resources
The new issue of the Journal of Media Law is available here, with articles concerning open justice, copyright, privacy, and libel.
Rebecca MacKinnon’s new book, ‘Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom‘, has been reviewed by John Kampfner here. McKinnon will be speaking at the LSE on 28 February (see “events” below).
In the Courts
On Monday 6 February 2012, Tugendhat J gave a number of ex tempore rulings in the libel case of Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police. In particular, he ordered that case be tried by judge alone. There is a news report about the case on the BBC website.
On Tuesday 7 February 2012 the Court of Appeal (Master of the Rolls, Hooper and Toulson LJJ) heard the appeal in R (Guardian News and Media Limited) v City of Westminster Magistrates Court. Judgment was reserved.
On Tuesday 7 Tuesday 2012 it was announced that the defendant had conceded the “phone hacking” judicial review case, R (Bryant) v Metropolitan Police Commissioner and agreed to a declaration that it had breached the claimants’ Article 8 rights. There was a news report about this on Inforrm (and also see above).
On Wednesday 8 February 2012 the Administrative Court (Gross LJ and Irwin J) heard the appeal in the case of R (Chambers) v DPP – the so-called “Twitter joke trial” case. There was an Inforrm preview of the case (also see above).
As noted above, on the same day, at the Pre-Trial Review in the voicemail interception litigation before Vos J it was announced that all but one of the cases due for trial had settled. The only remaining case – which will now be tried on 27 February 2012 – is that brought by Charlotte, James and Maria Church.
And also on 8 February 2012, in McCann & anr v Bennett, Tugendhat J gave directions on an application to commit Tony Bennett by Kate and Gerry McCann. Some of the background to the case can be found here
On Thursday 9 February 2012, the Court of Appeal (Hughes, Black and Tomlinson LJJ) handed down judgment in the case of Cambridge v Makin ( EWCA Civ 85) which was heard on 3 November 2011. The appeal was dismissed.
On Friday 10 February 2012, Tugendhat J handed down judgment in the case of Rothschild v Associated Newspapers ( EWHC 177 (QB)). The action was dismissed.
On the same day Tugendhat J heard an application by the claimant for permission to amend in the case of Tesla Motors v BBC. Judgment was reserved.
In relation to the case of Singh v Singh, (heard 24 and 25 January 2012 (HHJ Parkes QC), after the hearing the Defendants accepted a part 36 offer made in November 2011 giving the claimants a statement acknowledging that the allegations were untrue and an undertaking not to repeat and their costs. The case has settled and no judgment was handed down.
27 February 2012, ‘Open Justice Week’, initiative asking writers, legal professionals and members of the public to collaborate using social media to share their experiences of a week in the life of the legal system.
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. Room A130, College Building, City University London [please note room change].
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Malaysian authorities have confirmed that they have deported Hamza Kashgari, a writer from Saudi Arabia writer who fled to Malaysia last week after threat of arrest for tweeting about the Prophet Muhammad. The Daily Beast has a report here. Amnesty International has warned that he could be executed “if his statements are deemed to amount to apostasy“.
Out-Law.com has an interesting report on a public consultation launched by the Guernsey Intellectual Property Office (IPO), on draft laws “that would for the first time anywhere in the world allow celebrities to register their personality rights as a form of intellectual property“.
In Chapman v. L’Hirondelle, (2012 ABCA 25) the Alberta Court of Appeal gave its reason for dismissing an appeal by the defendants against an award of defamation damages in the sum of Can $51,500. The defendants failed to justify the truth of the allegations and the defence of qualified privilege was defeated by malice.
In Robertson v. McCormick, (2012 NSSC 4) the plaintiff sued his former school principal for slander as a result of her decision not to recall him as a substitute teacher for the second term of the school year. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia granted summary judgment to the defendant.
In Mann v. International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, 2012 BCSC 181 D.M. Masuhara J awarded the claimant shop steward damages of Can$30,000 (including aggravated damages of Can$5,000) arising out of the publication of a defamatory notice concerning alleged missing union funds.
Next week in the courts
The week of school half terms appears to be a quiet one in the media law courts. We are not aware of any substantial hearings listed for this week.
Next week at the Leveson Inquiry
The Inquiry reports that hearings for module 1 of the Inquiry have finished and that hearings for module 2 will begin on Monday 27 February. It states:
The Inquiry will now be considering issues related to the press and the police (module 2) until the end of March. Please see the key questions in relation to module 2 here.
Due to the very large volume of evidence we are receiving, it would be helpful to receive submissions by the end of February. We will be seeking submissions on issues relating to the press and politicians (module 3) shortly. Further information on this will be available on the website in due course.
Next week in Parliament
The House of Commons is in recess. The House will next sit on Monday 20 February 2012.
Wednesday 15 February 2012, House of Lords Main Chamber:
- Legislation, Protection of Freedoms Bill – Report stage (Day 3) – Lord Henley
- Legislation, Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – Committee of the whole House (Day 10) – Lord McNally
From Friday 17 February the House of Lords will be in recess. The House will next sit on Monday 27 February 2012.
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)
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)
Woodrow v Johansson, heard 19 January 2012 (HHJ Parkes QC)
Ashcroft v Foley heard 1 and 2 February 2012, (Pill and Elias LJJ and Sharp J)
WXY v Gewanter & ors, heard 3 February 2012 (Slade J)
R (Guardian News and Media Limited) v City of Westminster Magistrates Court, heard 7 Feburary 2012 (Master of the Rolls, Hooper and Toulson LJJ).
R (Chambers) v DPP, heard 8 February 2012 (Gross LJ and Irwin J)
Tesla Motors Ltd & anr v British Broadcasting Corporation, heard 10 February 2012 (Tugendhat J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- Case Law: Jones v Tsige – the Ontario Courts recognise a privacy tort – Hugh Tomlinson QC
- Press ‘omerta’: How newspapers’ failure to report the phone hacking scandal exposed the limitations of media accountability- Daniel Bennett and Judith Townend
- Inforrm reaches 1000 posts – the popular and the less visible
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 material (eg. event listings and article suggestions) for inclusion in future round up posts to firstname.lastname@example.org.