Today marks the official end of the Inforrm summer break. Although the legal vacation continues until 1 October, there is no shortage of media and legal news. We had a “Mid-Summer Round Up” a couple of weeks ago and we will resume our regular weekly round up tomorrow. Regular readers will have noticed that we have not, in fact, had much of a break this year. This has been, in large part, due to the two main “media legal” stories of the summer: Royal Privacy and the preparations for the publication of the Leveson report this Autumn.
We had a series of August posts on issues arising from the photographs of Prince Harry’s bum in a Las Vegas Hotel room. The most popular post of the summer was Brian Cathcart’s “The Mail and the Naked Prince“. And the next most popular was the post on “Public Interest and the Prince: the Sun fails the responsibility test“. Our other posts on the subject “This is not about Harry’s bum“, “Prince Harry, Privacy and Naked Photos: what part of ‘private’ do the press not understand” and “Prince Harry’s Photos: Five lessons for media regulation”.
And just as things appeared to have calmed down after “Harrygate” there was a second royal privacy story: the long lens photos of a topless Duchess of Cambridge. From Las Vegas hotel rooms to French country chateaux: if the photographs are taken, elements of the media can be relied on to publish them. As we commented yesterday, the taking and publication of these photographs involved clear criminal conduct and cynical calculation by a French magazine. The Irish Daily Star has since joined in – demonstrating a complete disregard for the voluntary Press Council of Ireland whose Code of Practice provides, inter alia,
Taking photographs of individuals in private places without their consent is not acceptable, unless justified by the public interest“.
The other main story of the summer concerns the run up to the Leveson Part 1 report – with the media leaking, spinning and briefing beginning with the intention of undermining any recommendation of effective regulation. We had a round up of some of this material last week. We also noted that Leveson was the most tweeted topic among UK journalists in the past quarter.
In anticipation of the political and media battles which are likely surround the publication of the Leveson Report, the Hacked Off campaign has announced a new beginning: entering its third phase with a greatly expanded team and remit.
There has been very little activity in the Courts over the summer – although there was one, unsuccessful, injunction application against a national newspaper in August: McClaren v NGN. Our case comment from Eddie Craven was widely read.
Finally, Judith Townend has produced a very full and helpful Analysis of Defamation Trials, Summary Determinations and Assessments 2011 to 2012. Her summary of the 2011 to 2012 position (with a comparison to the previous year) is worth repeating:
Summary: October 2011-July 2012
- First instance defamation hearings, which resulted in disposal of action: 24 (2010/11: 22)
- The defendants were successful in 16 of these cases, that is 67 % of cases (2010/11: 13/22 – 59%)
- Defamation trials: 5 (2010/11: 2).
- Defamation trials involving the mainstream media: 3 (2010/11: 1)
- Defamation trials with jury: 1 (first in nearly three years) (2010/11: 0)
So, welcome back to our readers. As usual, we would like to encourage contributions to debates in all areas of media related law. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in contributing.