In a judgment handed down on 4 February 2013 ( EWHC 145 (QB)) Mr Justice Eady awarded the former Conservative Party treasurer, Peter Cruddas, defamation damages of £45,000 in respect of 9 blogs and 12 tweets by published by lobbyist Mark Adams. Inforrm reported here.
Removing abusive messages may help social media users avoid prosecution, according to the director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC. “..[T]here is a lot of stuff out there that’s highly offensive that’s put out on a spontaneous basis. It’s quite often taken down pretty quickly and the view is that that sort of remark, those sorts of remarks don’t necessarily need to be prosecuted,” he said. He was speaking on Sky News’ Dermot Murnaghan programme [transcript / report].
Last week’s round up noted that House of Lords backbenchers had moved ‘Leveson amendments’ to be taken at the Report Stage of the Defamation Bill; last week, peers voted in favour of these amendments that would introduce a low-cost arbitration service, by 272 votes to 141, a majority of 131. Lord Puttnam said:
“The amendments in my name and the names of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, do exactly what they say on the tin. They offer a solution that is quick, just and affordable and, most of all, they offer a remedy that is entirely independent of both government and the media”.
However, the Libel Reform campaign has raised concerns that the Government will now drop the bill: writing in the Guardian, Tracey Brown argues that “this political stunt is now risking the future of the defamation bill“. In the Times, Matthew Parris complains that Lord Puttnam “has led a sneak attack to sabotage the Defamation Bill and get statutory regulation by the back door“.
Alan Tierney, a former Surrey police officer, is to be charged with misconduct in public office over alleged payments from the Sun newspaper, the Independent reported. The CPS statement can be found here.
The Duchess of York and 16 others settled their phone hacking claims at the High Court last week (see “In the Courts”). Press Gazette reports that “in the three months to 31 December the [News Corp] incurred $56m (£35.7m) in costs relating to phone-hacking – bringing the total figure to more than $340m (£216.9m)“.
Vicky Pryce’s dealings with the Sunday Times are being scrutinised in her ongoing trial at Southwark Crown Court. The ex-wife of former MP Chris Huhne denies perverting the course of justice and is pleading a special defence of marital coercion. Press Gazette and the BBC reports on the evidence concerning the Sunday Times here and here.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any relevant information to report in this section.
Journalism and regulation
There are no new PCC adjudications to report, but several resolved complaints including:
Alexander Anderson v Press & Journal (Aberdeen), 8/02/2013; Dr Mark Bailey v Irish News, Clause 1, 07/02/2013; A man & a woman v Sunday World, Clauses 1, 3, 5, 07/02/2013; Hertfordshire Constabulary v Hertfordshire Mercury, Clause 1, 07/02/2013; A woman v The Daily Telegraph, Clause 3, 07/02/2013, A woman v The Mail on Sunday, Clause 3, 07/02/2013; Mr Bedwyr Griffiths v The Daily Telegraph, Clause 1, 07/02/2013; Mr Bedwyr Griffiths v Wales Online, Clause 1, 07/02/2013; Lindsay Wheatcroft v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 05/02/2013; Phil Adams v The Sun, Clause 1, 05/02/2013; A woman v Whitby Gazette, Clause 1, 05/02/2013; Mr Bruce Elliott v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 04/02/2013.
A Bristol-based journalist who lost her job in November discusses the difficulties of unemployment on her blog here.
A feature by the blogger Fleet Street Fox is due to appear in Monday’s Times, with the promise that she will “reveal herself and her story” in Times 2.
Research & resources
- Jonathan Baines, Information Rights and Wrongs: Courts, Contempt and Data Protection
- POLIS blog, Pharma online: does regulation or corporate social media policy need to change to allow a real dialogue about medicines?
- Policy Report: European Union Competencies in Respect of Media Pluralism and Media Freedom
- Dominic Grieve, speech: Trial by Google? Juries, social media and the internet
In the Courts
On 4 February 2013 judgment was given in the case of Adams v Cruddas ( EWHC 145 (QB)) (discussed above)
On 5 February 2013 the Court of Appeal (Ward and Moses LJJ) refused the claimant permission to appeal in the case of McGrath & Anr v. Dawkins & Ors. We had a post on this interesting first instance decision about online forums on 18 April 2012.
On the same day Mr Justice Eady gave judgment in the case of Auladin v Shaikh ( EWHC 157 (QB)). The judge found that the words were not defamatory of the claimant and therefore granted summary judgment to the claimant.
On 6 February 2013 Mr Justice Eady handed down in Duke v The University of Salford  EWHC 196 (QB) (6 February 2013). The judge struck out a claim brought by the University of Salford against a lecturer concerning articles on his website. He was not convinced that there was “a ‘real and substantial tort’, so far as the University is concerned, or that the proceedings should be allowed to continue purely for the purpose of the University’s obtaining an injunction to stifle criticism [of two members of the University]”. He did not, however, accept the argument that the claim should be struck out because the institution is prevented from bringing a defamation action:
“In this jurisdiction, if it were decided that as a matter of public policy universities should not have the right to sue for libel, that could only be implemented by the legislature or, perhaps, by the Supreme Court“. PA Media Lawyer reported here (subscription required).
As noted above, statements were read out at the High Court on Friday 8 February for 17 individuals who had settled claims with News International in the phone hacking civil litigation. Claimants included the Duchess of York, James Blunt, Christopher Eccleston,Uri Geller and Hugh Grant, as reported by Press Gazette.
On the same day Mrs Justice Gloster made a Norwich Pharmacal order in the case of Halpern v Google. The claimant is an orthodox Jewish rabbi who was seeking the order to “disclose the registered name, address or IP address in their possession in respect of the blogger Ifyoutickleus“, who had posted alleged defamatory blogs, accusing the claimant of having extra marital affairs. There were news stories about this case in the “Daily Telegraph” and the “Jewish Chronicle“.
14 February 2013, 6.30pm, Live from Downing Street: The inside story of power, politics and the media, LSE public lecture – Nick Robinson, Old Theatre, Old Building, LSE.
15 February 2013, 7pm, Screening: Reportero + Q&A (with director Bernardo Ruiz), Frontline Club, London.
20 February 2013, 6pm, The Leveson Inquiry: Trauma or Catharsis? Professor George Brock. Barnard’s Inn Hall, London.
26 February 2013, 6pm, ‘After Leveson’ – Debate & Book Launch, The Media Society, TVT, 578-586 Chiswick High Rd, W4 5RP, London.
27 February 2013, 7pm, On the media: Unprepared, inexperienced and in a war zone, Frontline Club, London.
8 March 2013, Law and the Media, University of Bristol.
21-22 March 2013, Internet Domain Names: from Registration to Dispute Resolution, Academy of European Law (ERA), Trier, Germany.
27 March 2013, 17:30, Broadcast competition and regulation, Helen Weeds, University of Essex, City University London.
5 April 2013, Polis Journalism Conference, LSE, London.
22 April 2013, IBC Legal’s 20th Anniversary Defamation & Privacy conference, Grange Tower Bridge Hill, London.
Know of any media law events happening in the next few months? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Hawaii: The so-called ‘Steven Tyler Act’, named after the lead singer of Aerosmith, will be considered in the state Senate Judiciary Committee. It “would allow people to collect damages from someone who photographs them in an offensive way during their personal or family time“, reports AP (at Politico).
Scotland: Herbert Kerrigan QC is suing a fellow lawyer over claims he defamed him in front of a class of law students, according to the Daily Record and Sunday Mail.
South Africa: The South Gauteng High Court has issued a ruling preventing a South African Facebook user’s friend posting about his personal life on Facebook, after she defamed him on the site, reports mybroadband (H v W (12/10142)  ZAGPJHC 1 (30 January 2013))
Next week in the courts
On 11 to 12 February 2013 the Supreme Court will hear the case of Public Relations Consultants Association Limited v The Newspaper Licensing Agency Limited and others. The Supreme Court case summary is here.
The trial in Thompson v James will be heard on 13 February 2013. It is now by judge alone and is listed for 5 to 6 days. This is a claim brought by the author of the Carmarthenshire Planning Problems blog, Jacqui Thompson, against the chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council in relation to a letter dated 28 July 2011. Mr James has brought a counterclaim for libel, funded by the local authority. There is a post about the case on the claimant’s blog, here.
On 13 February 2013 there is a damages only trial by judge alone in the case of Al-Amoudi v Kifle. A previous action between the same parties was dealt with by HHJ Parkes QC in July 2011 ( EWHC 2037 (QB)). On that occasion damages were assessed in the sum of £175,000. However, the defendant was resident in the United States and made no appearance in that action.
On Friday 15 February 2013 there is an application in the case of XLN Telecom Ltd v Geezer Telecom.
Next week in Parliament
Monday 10 February 2013, 7.35pm, Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, Witness(es): Mary Harris, Clerk of the New Zealand Parliament; Bernard Wright, Clerk of the Australian House of Representatives and Dr Rosemary Laing, Clerk of the Australian Senate. House of Commons.
Tuesday 12 February 2013, 8.55am & 2pm, Crime and Courts Bill [HL] Committee, Subject: to consider the Bill. Location: Committee Room 12, Palace of Westminster.
Tuesday 12 February 2013, 5pm, Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege. Subject: Parliamentary Privilege. Witness(es): David Beamish, Clerk of the Parliaments and Sir Robert Rogers, Clerk of the House of Commons, Location: 4A.
Tuesday 12 February 2013, 3.15pm, House of Lords Communications select committee. Subject: Media Convergence. Witness(es): (at 3.30pm) Mr Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Location: Committee Room 2, Palace of Westminster.
Thursday 14 February 2013, 11.30am & 2pm, Crime and Courts Bill [HL] Committee, Subject: to consider the Bill. Location: Committee Room 12, Palace of Westminster.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Iqbal v. Mansoor, heard 31 October 2012 (Rix, Etherton and Lewison LJJ)
Tamiz v. Google, heard 3 and 4 December 2012 (Master of the Rolls, Richards and Sullivan LJJ)
Citation PLC v. Ellis Whittam Limited, heard 5 December 2012 (Laws, Arden and Tomlinson LJJ)
Rothschild v. Associated Newspapers heard 12 and 13 December 2012 (Laws, McCombe LJJ and Eady J)
Waterson v. Lloyd & Anor heard 17 and 18 December 2012 (Laws, Richards and McCombe LJJ)
Tesla Motors Limited & anr v. British Broadcasting Corporation, heard 15-16 January 2013 (Maurice Kay, Moore-Bick and Rimer LJJ)
McCann v Bennett, heard 5 and 6 February 2013 (Tugendhat J)
Also on Inforrm last week
- Does India need its Leveson? – Arghya Sengupta
- News: House of Lords adds “Leveson” amendments to Defamation Bill, Government defeated by a substantial majority
- Case Law: Cruddas v Adams, Damages of £45,000 for a blog and Twitter Libel
- Libel, privacy and freedom of expression online: the future, the Defamation Bill, Leveson and beyond, Part 1 – Hugh Tomlinson QC
- Libel, privacy and freedom of expression online: the future, the Defamation Bill, Leveson and beyond, Part 2 – Hugh Tomlinson QC
- Journalisted, week ending 3 February 2013, Stalingrad anniversary, HS2 plans and Nuclear storage
- News: Northern Ireland Judge awards £35,000 damages for anonymous Facebook libels
- Case Law, Australia: Gluyas v Best, Emphatic win for Aspergers’ Advocate – Justin Castelan
- Leveson and the Royal Charter: what to look for – Brian Cathcart
- Media Standards Trust YouGov Poll: Public Supports Full Implementation of Leveson
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.