The Leveson Inquiry and Parliament are still on Easter vacation and the new legal term begins on Tuesday 17 April, but there is no shortage of news and commentary to report, following Inforrm’s own mini-break from our usual weekly round up.
The Guardian won its bid to access documents in criminal proceedings, in a Court of Appeal judgment handed down on 3 April 2012. As David Banisar argued here, the decision in R (Guardian News and Media Ltd) v City of Westminster Magistrates Court ( EWCA Civ 420) “established in common law for the first time the right of ordinary people and the media to obtain documents that are used in court cases“.
Eoin O’Dell, Trinity College Dublin, commented on the case and its relation to open justice here. Court reporter Will Gant notifies us that he has subsequently successfully drawn a crown court judge’s attention to Rule 5.8(7)(b) of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2011 and the prosecutor then agreed to let Gant read through the witness statements in his presence.
The blogger Guido Fawkes has published a section of the Operation Motorman files, covering News International related entries, claiming that there was “no political will to see this through, the press are by and large keen for their own reasons to suppress the truth and the judiciary are actively suppressing the evidence“. Out-Law.com has a useful report with relevant context here.
The Information Commissioner’s Office condemned the publication, stating “putting these into the public domain in this way is a serious violation of many people’s privacy and raises more questions than it answers” and that it would “now consider what further steps it should take in the face of this apparent breach of the DPA“. In a comment piece for the ‘Hacked Off’ campaign, which is calling for disclosure of the files in a “professionally redacted” and clear manner, Brian Cathcart argued that the publication cannot come as any surprise to the ICO.
Natalie Peck summarised the final week of Leveson Module Two in this post; witnesses included Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, and former News of the World employees Lucy Panton and Neil Wallis. The director of journalism for the Reuters Institute, John Lloyd, has given his overview with a focus on the tabloids, in the Financial Times here (subscription required).
The Daily Mail reported on News Corp’s accumulating civil costs and the price of News of the World’s closure, while the Guardian revealed claims of leaked celebrity flight details. The IPCC reported that former Met Police assistant commissioner John Yates had shown ‘poor judgment’ when aiding ex-News of the World journalist Neil Wallis’s daughter to secure employment with the police, as the Telegraph reports here. However the IPCC concluded there was no evidence of misconduct, as the Mirror notes here.
Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck has given an account of his career to his sister’s regional magazine. One startling revelation stands out: he reports that the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) “realised [he] was a fertile source for information concerning serious organised crime and recruited [him] as agent 251, codename George in 1995“.
The Guardian reports that Richard Horton, who blogged as ‘NightJack’ is pursuing legal action against the Times for breach of confidence, misuse of private information and deceit. David Allen Green has published a lengthy piece on his New Statesman blog detailing events leading up to the Leveson Inquiry’s examination of the NightJack episode.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any new statements in open court.
Journalism and regulation
A man’s complaint against Glasgow’s Evening Times was not upheld – it concerned a claim under clauses 3 (privacy) and 10 (clandestine devices and subterfuge) over a photograph illustrating a newspaper article about the crackdown on shisha cafes in breach of the UK smoking ban. The decision was published by the PCC on 5 April here.
There were numerous resolved cases reported, including:
Mr Bob Sayers v Gloucestershire Echo, Clause 1, 13/04/2012; NHS South West London v Daily Mirror, Clause 1, 13/04/2012; Nasrollah Mansouri v Birmingham Mail, Clause 1, 12/04/2012; A woman v Sunday Life, Clause 3, 12/04/2012; Theresa Avery v The People, Clauses 3, 6, 10/04/2012; Ms Sharen Green v Jewish Chronicle, Clause 1, 09/04/2012; Mrs Lyn-Marie Cunliffe v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 06/04/2012.
Mr Mohamed Huzair v The Independent, Clause 1, 05/04/2012; Mrs Jagdish Strachan, on behalf of Mrs Harpajan Singh v Hounslow Chronicle, clauses 1, 2, 5, 04/04/2012; Mr David Thomas v Falmouth Packet, Clause 1, 03/04/2012; A man v Daily Record, Clause 3, 03/04/2012; Mr John Andrews v Grantham Journal, Clause 1, 03/04/2012; A man v Oban Times, Clause 7, 11, 03/04/2012; Hope Animal Sanctuary v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 03/04/2012; Mr Julian Assange v The Sun, Clause 1, 03/04/2012; A woman v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 03/04/2012; Mr Julian Assange v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 03/04/2012.
The PCC’s chair, Lord Hunt, reaffirmed his position against statutory regulation at the launch of the new edition of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists on 30 March, as reported for Inforrm here. The organisation, currently in transition stage, has published its latest complainant ‘satisfaction’ quarterly statistics [PDF] / [press release].
Research & resources
On Inforrm, the lead researcher for the Alternative Libel Project, Helen Anthony, expanded the report’s findings in relation to costs, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and the Leveson Inquiry. The report, which was launched on 15 March can be downloaded here [PDF].
Inforrm published a review of Mark Pearson’s new book, “Blogging and Tweeting Without Getting Sued” by Leanne O’Donnell (originally published on Australia-based Gazette of Law and Journalism).
New journal publication: Rowbottom, Jacob H., To Rant, Vent and Converse: Protecting Low Level Digital Speech (April 2, 2012). Cambridge Law Journal, Vol. 71, No. 2, 2012 ; Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN [Inforrm also published a commentary by Jacob Rowbottom here: ‘Casual comments and legal controls: watch what you say online’].
In the Courts
There were no media law cases in the courts last week. In the week before Easter there were judgments in Ashcroft v Foley, R (Guardian News and Media) v City of Westminster Magistrates (see above) and a decision (but no judgment yet) in Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire.
19 April 2012, 5pm: Julian Petley – ‘The Limits of the Possible’: how far is it possible to go with transgressive material?: The Obscene Publications Act and the “extreme porn” provisions of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act. University of Derby.
25 April 2012: IBC Legal’s 19th Annual, Defamation & Privacy 2012, Crowne Plaza Hotel London – The City.
30 April 2012, 6.30pm: Lessons for Leveson: What can we learn from press regulation elsewhere? Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Royal Society of Arts, London.
17 May 2012, 6pm: Rally for Media Reform – The Coordinating Committee for Media Reform, in conjunction with the Hacked Off campaign, Westminster Central Hall.
Know of any media law events happening in April / May? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Ireland: Senator David Norris introduced Privacy Bill into the Seanad on 28 March 2012. Eoin O’Dell, Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, reflected on privacy law in Ireland in a blog post here. The Irish Times has a brief report here.
ECHR/Sweden: In Gillberg v Sweden [41723/06  ECHR 569 (3 April 2012)] , the Grand Chamber of the European Court determined that Professor Christopher Gillberg could not rely on Article 8 and 10 in his refusal to grant access to research material at Gothenburg University. Researchers Dirk Voorhoof and Rónán Ó Fathaigh commented on the case in this post.
ECHR/Germany: In Axel Springer AG v. Germany [44585/10  ECHR 128] the ECHR found that ‘selecting journalists by random lot for admission to a juvenile trial did not discriminate against them or restrict their freedom of expression’. The judgment is available in French but the press release in English can be found here.
Jersey: The Jersey Evening Post (JEP) has successfully defended a libel claim (Mr & Mrs Pitman v JEP & Broadlands) brought by two local politicians over a cartoon commissioned by Broadlands, a firm of estate agents, and published in the newspaper in 2008. Collas Crill, which represented the newspaper, reports: “After a three day trial the Royal Court dismissed the action, finding that the publication was not defamatory of the Plaintiffs, and ordered that the Plaintiffs pay the Defendants’ costs of the action“. HoldtheFrontPage has a report here, with a picture of the Evening’s Post’s front page declaring a ‘victory for free speech’.
Belarus: Andrei Sannikov, an opposition activist and founder of Charter 97 has been released from detention and pardoned by president Alexander Lukashenko, Index on Censorship reports.
United States: The Digital Media Law Project (DMLP), based at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, has published a ‘Guide to the Internal Revenue Service Decision-Making Process under Section 501(c)(3) for Journalism and Publishing Non-Profit Organizations‘. Its aim is to help US-based organizations understand how the IRS determines whether to grant federal tax-exempt status to non-profit organisations.
Namibia: John Grobler, a Namibian journalist has won his defamation case against the country’s governing party, South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), following allegations made in its online publication ‘Namibia Today’. There is a report on IOL News here.
Next week in the courts
The legal term starts on Tuesday 17 April 2012. Attention is drawn to two media law cases listed for next week:
First, on Thursday 19 April 2012 there is a second pre-trial review (PTR) in the libel case of Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire. The trial is listed to begin on Monday 23 April 2012. As Inforrm noted on 4 April 2012, the Court of Appeal dismissed the defendant’s appeal against the order for trial by judge alone. The case will be tried by Bean J, sitting without a jury.
On Friday 20 April 2012, there will be the second Case Management Conference in Round Two of the Voicemail Interception litigation – once again before Vos J in the Chancery Division.
Next week at the Leveson Inquiry
Hearings with resume at the Leveson Inquiry on 23 April 2012.
Next week in Parliament
The House of Commons began its recess from Wednesday 28 March. The House will next sit on Monday 16 April 2012.
The House of Lords began its recess from Thursday 29 March. The House will next sit on Monday 23 April 2012.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
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)
Chambers v DPP, heard 8 February 2012 (Gross LJ and Irwin J)
Qema v NGN Ltd heard 29 February and 1 March 2012 (Sharp J)
Hunt v Times Newspapers, heard 9 and 12 March 2012 (Eady J)
Bento v Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, heard 3 April 2012 (Maurice Kay and Hooper LJJ and Henderson J)
Also on Inforrm last fortnight
- Leveson Round-Up: Over Cosy? The Leveson Love Triangle – Damian Tambini
- News: Operation Motorman, the story that will not go away
- Opinion: Paul Dacre, Geordie Greig and the Fourth Viscount – Brian Cathcart
- Inforrm – Easter Break and record page views
- News: Attorney General for Northern Ireland v Peter Hain MP – The obscure offence of “scandalising the court” – Edward Craven
- Disclosure of Politicians’ Tax Returns and Freedom of Expression: drawing on the Indian experience – Hugh Tomlinson QC
- News: MPs must not let fear of contempt water down phone hacking report – David Banks
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 suggestions, tips and event listings for inclusion in future round ups to firstname.lastname@example.org.