We are now a week into the new legal term, and while it’s still party conference season for MPs, the Defamation Bill will receive its second reading in the House of Lords on Monday 9 October. A House of Lords Library Note has been published in advance of the second reading. A number of media law cases have already come before the courts this term.
On 4 October 2012 Mr Justice Tugendhat refused to continue an injunction granted to comedian Freddie Starr by Mrs Justice Cox on 3 October 2012 “to prevent publication of what he says is a libellous allegation”. There were reports of the hearing in the Press Gazette and the Guardian. Details of the allegation were not revealed at the hearing but it was later reported that they concerned claims that he groped a 14-year-old girl at a dressing room party hosted by singer Gary Glitter and TV and radio host Jimmy Savile. Mr Starr vehemently denied the allegation, saying “Don’t tar me with the same brush as a scumbag and a paedophile.”
On 5 October 2012 Mr Justice Tugendhat handed down an important judgment after the trial of preliminary issues of privilege and malice in the libel action, Qadir v Associated Newspapers Limited, heard on 26-27 July 2012 ( EWHC 2606 (QB)), as Callum Galbraith, a solicitor at Hamlins LLP, which acted for Mr Qadir in this case, reported here:
“Novel issues concerning the media’s reporting of litigation and of court hearings, along with malice, were determined in what will be considered to be a landmark judgment. It is anticipated that the new Defamation Act will significantly broaden the scope of statutory privilege defences so this decision is likely to be of considerable importance in the future“.
Associated Newspapers made a statement reported in this Guardian article, emphasising that the case has not yet reached full trial and claiming:
“It could have disturbing implications for journalists reporting legal actions on the basis of court documents. It introduces onerous new conditions a journalist must meet before being covered by legal privilege”.
In a judgment in the phone hacking litigation, handed down on 5 October 2012 ( EWHC 2692 (Ch)), Mr Justice Vos ruled that further database searches for generic disclosure at News Group Newspapers are not justified, although disclosure in specific cases would still be required. The Guardian reported this and other details here.
According to PA Media Lawyer (£), the court will sit again on 10 October 2012 “to consider an attempt to strike out the claim brought by Mary-Ellen Field, former adviser to model Elle Macpherson, on the basis that no phone interception took place“, while another case management conference is listed for 26 October 2012.
David Allen Green has written what he says will be the first in a series of posts about the murder of Daniel Morgan, arguing that after five police investigations into the private investigator’s death in 1987, there must now be a judicial inquiry.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
On Thursday, 4th October 2012, there was a unilateral statement in open court in Whitmore v News Group Newspapers Ltd. Showbiz journalist Caroline Whitmore complained about a story in the Sun which linked her to the singer Harry Styles. She accepted undisclosed damages, an apology and payment of her legal costs from News Group Newspapers. The Independent has a PA report here, with details of the apology.
Payam Tamiz, the former Conservative council candidate for Salmestone, has settled his libel case against the Evening Standard and political editor Joe Murphy, with the Evening Standard apologising and agreeing to pay damages over an article entitled ‘Tory resigns over “Thanet girls are slags” outburst‘. The Evening Standard’s apology can be found here in an article posted by Brett Wilson LLP, which acted for Mr Tamiz. In a separate action, Tamiz has been granted leave in Tamiz v Google; the appeal is to be heard by the full Court of Appeal on 3-4 December 2012.
Journalism and regulation
There are two new PCC adjudications to report. One, Honest Reporting v Guardian, was deemed “highly unusual” by the Commission, not least because “the material under complaint was itself a correction“. It concerned a Clause 1 (accuracy) complaint over a Guardian correction stating that “Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is“. The Commission found that sufficient remedial action was offered after the paper published another correction, in which it noted that it had now also updated its style guide. While the complainant was unhappy with the second correction, the Commission considered that “the newspaper had been entitled to explain the wider context to readers while fulfilling its obligations under the Code, and concluded that the published correction was sufficient to address the inaccuracy of the original statement“.
A complaint under clause 5 (intrusion into grief or shock) was upheld. In Nick Crossley v Halifax Courier, the Commission found that the use of the first-person headline “Crossley tycoon: I’m dying” “as a means to report the complainant’s prognosis in this manner could not be considered as handling publication sensitively“. A complaint under Clause 1 was not upheld, however.
Resolved complaints included:
Shereef Abdallah v The Mail on Sunday, Clause 1, 05/10/2012; Mr Iain Simcock v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 2, 3, 05/10/2012; Steven Wilkinson v The Mail on Sunday, Clause 1, 05/10/2012; Mrs Hillary Markham v Daily Mail Clauses 1, 3, 5, 6, 02/10/2012; Mr Callum Clark v Liverpool Echo, Clause 6, 01/10/2012.
An outgoing broadcast journalist at BBC Radio Humberside has written an open letter to new director general George Entwistle drawing his attention to the fact that “there is not a single BBC local radio Breakfast Show that is solo presented by a woman“.
In a post looking at protection and resources for journalists working in hostile environments, Sarah A Topol argues that “rookie freelancers are risking their lives to cover the story of the Arab spring—with dangerous consequences“, in the Daily Beast.
This is from the week before last, but it seems worth flagging up Lord Chief Justice’s comments on the Leveson Inquiry at his annual press conference on 27 September 2012, the transcript for which is available here. Asked by lawyer and New Statesman legal correspondent David Allen Green how closely he was following proceedings, Lord Judge said he has been “following it by reading the newspapers“:
“I have taken a very close interest in it, but I have certainly not read a single page of transcript. But I think I am fairly well known to be a passionate believer in a free press. I feel deeply about it. This is an essential ingredient in our society. It is as important as an independent judiciary. I recommended Lord Justice Leveson to the Prime Minister because I know he takes the same view. What the result of his recommendations will be, having heard months of evidence, I do not know. But at the end of it what he will be doing is making recommendations. He will have no power to change anything. It will be for Parliament to decide whether it wishes to change anything and, if so, what changes there should be.”
Research & resources
- ActNow Training has an interesting post on RIPA and surveillance.
- The Council of Europe’s ‘Young People Combating Hate Speech On-line‘ project will be run between 2012 and 2014, with a training course and online campaigning.
In the Courts
The Michaelmas Legal Term began on Monday 1 October 2012.
On 3 October there was a pre-trial review in Boyle v MGN, in front of Tugendhat J. The trial of the case, before a judge and jury, will begin on 15 October 2012.
On 4 October, there was a hearing in Ansari v Knowles & other, in front of Eady J, on release of joint tortfeasor, according to 5RB – Adrienne Page QC acted for the Defendants instructed by Addleshaw Goddard. There was a settlement between the claimant and one of the defendants earlier in the year, resulting in a statement in open court on 21 March 2012. This was a claim by Mr Khalid Ansari against Vilnius University and other defendants concerning serious allegations made about Mr Ansari during his time as an employee of Manchester Metropolitan University. At the time, there was a news story about the case on the website of the claimant’s solicitors.
On the same day, there was the fourth day of the tenth Case Management Conference in the Phone Hacking litigation before Vos J. Judgment on the application was handed down on Friday 5 October 2012 ( EWHC 2692 (Ch)).
On 5 October 2010, Tugendhat J handed down judgment in Qadir v Associated ( EWHC 2606 (QB)). (see above).
11 October, 4pm, ‘Ten Years that Shook the Media World’ – Launch of a new Reuters Institute report, Institute for Government, London.
18 October, 10.30am, The Communications Data Bill: ‘Snoopers’ charter’, or safeguarding our security? Index on Censorship and the Global Network Initiative. Free Word Centre, London.
24 October 2012, 6pm, Ten Years On – The Iraq Dossiers: Who Was Damaged Most by Hutton?, Media Society debate with Kevin Marsh, former editor ‘Today’; Peter Oborne, Lance Price, Professor Steven Barnett, Professor Jean Seaton (Chair: Steve Hewlett). University of Westminster, London.
25 October 2012, After Leveson: Annual Conference of the Institute of Communication Ethics (from 9.30am); Media Society debate (3.30pm); launch of The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial (Abramis),second edition. Frontline Club, London.
13 November 2012, 6.30pm, ‘Regulating for Communication’, Baroness Onora O’Neill, Goldsmiths University, London.
19 November 2011, all day, Media and War: challenging the consensus, Goldsmiths University, London.
19 November 2012, The Poetry of Free Expression: Celebrating 40 years of Index on Censorship, Index on Censorship / Poet in the City. King’s Place, London.
28 November 2012, 6pm ‘CEL Annual Lecture 2012: Media Freedoms & Media Standards’, Baroness Onora O’Neill
Know of any media law events happening in the autumn? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Australia: It is reported by ABC that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has instructed lawyers in Sydney to investigate the possibility of suing Prime Minister Julia Gillard for defamation as a result of her statements in a 2010 radio interview that WikiLeaks’s publication of classified information was “grossly irresponsible” and “illegal”.
Singapore: A journalist’s appeal against a Singapore court’s order that he should disclose his sources is to be heard on October, PA Media Lawyer reported (£). James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the Singapore’s S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, is appealing against an order to disclose his sources for reports about the World Sport Group. The West Australian has a report about the original order here.
South Africa: Dario Milo reports for Inforrm on the South African Constitutional Cour’s “momentous” ruling on freedom of speech. The case of Print Media South Africa v Minister of Home Affairs ( ZACC 22) concerned the constitutionality of aspects of the Films and Publications Act, 1996 (the Act) following its amendment in 2009.
Switzerland: The BBC reports that disgraced FormerTour de France winner Floyd Landis has been found liable to pay current and former International Cycling Union (“UCI”) presidents Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen 10,000 Swiss francs (£6,630) each after being found guilty of defamation by a Swiss court. The UCI sued the American cyclist after he alleged they had protected Lance Armstrong from doping claims. The Eastern Vaud District Court ruled that Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for failing a dope test, was forbidden to “state that the UCI, Pat McQuaid or Hein Verbruggen have concealed cases of doping, received money for doing so [or] have accepted money from Lance Armstrong to conceal a doping case“.
Next week in the courts
On Monday, 8 October 2012 there will be a third party disclosure application by the defendant in the case of Hunt v Evening Standard Limited beforeEady J. There will be a pre-trial review in Mengi v Hermitage before Tugendhat J.
On Tuesday 9 October 2012 there will be an applications in John v Times Newspapers Limited and Gregory v Benham.
There will be an application in McCann & McCann v Bennett on 10 October and one in Gatt v Barclays Bank PLC on 11 October 2012.
On 12 October 2012 there will be application in BUQ v HRE and a case management conference in Hunt v Times Newspapers.
Next week in Parliament
From Wednesday 19 September, the House of Commons will be in recess. The House will next sit on Monday 15 October 2012.
The House of Lords:
Monday 8 October, 2.30pm: Legislation – Defamation Bill – Second reading – Lord McNally. Main Chamber.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
- Miller v Associated Newspapers heard 21 to 25 May 2012 (Sharp J)
- KC v MGN; Cairns v Modi, heard 26 and 27 July 2012 (Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls, Eady J).
Also on Inforrm last week
- In the press reform debate, who speaks for freedom? – Brian Cathcart
- News: Privacy Injunction Statistics, January to June 2012 – identifying the cases [Updated]
- Telegraph readers take issue with the Telegraph’s view of press self-regulation – Martin Moore
- News: Mr Justice Tugendhat’s speech on specialist media law judges – Gervase de Wilde
- Journalisted: week ending Sunday 30 September 2012, Ryder Cup, Megan and Unionist parade
- Kate Middleton’s topless photographs and the law of privacy, the view from South Africa – Dario Milo and Emma Sadleir
- Payments for private information and the regulation of journalism – Gideon Benaim
- Another brick in the wall of reputation protection – Roger Waite and Amber Melville-Brown
- Case Law: Qadir v Associated Newspapers, privilege defence fails – Callum Galbraith
- Super Media: Rise of Social Media, the view from Australia – Patrick George
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.