The CPS made an announcement about Operation Weeting, the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into phone hacking. It has concluded that in relation to eight of 13 suspects there is “sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction in relation to one or more offences”; and that a prosecution is “required in the public interest“. In relation to three of the remaining suspects, it has concluded that there is “insufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction“.
Finally, there are two suspects in relation to whom the police have asked her “to defer making a decision whilst further enquiries are made“. The BBC reported that former executive editor of the News of the World, Neil Wallis, had been told he will not face charges over phone hacking.
The cross-party amendments to the Defamation Bill in the House of Lords have drawn the ire of Lord Lester and libel reform campaigners. The Guardian reports that Lord Fowler has now tabled a further amendment to the bill “which would delete the provision requiring the court to take into account whether a defendant first sought advice from a recognised regulator before publication” and that Lord Puttnam has agreed to support the removal of this part of the amendment at its third reading (see “In Parliament”, below).
In the light of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations on Data Protection, the Information Commissioner is proposing to issue a Code of Practice under section 51 of the Data Protection Act 1998 in relation to the law as it currently stands. Before doing so, the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) is engaging in a short “framework consultation”, which closes on 15 March 2013, as Inforrm reported here.
Inforrm broke the news that Carina Trimingham had withdrawn the appeal in her harassment and privacy claim against the publisher of the Daily Mail.
The Civil Liberties Committee of MEPs has called for annual EU-wide monitoring of media laws and measures, “both to protect media freedom and to help prevent excessive media concentration“. The European Parliament press release can be found 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 two new PCC adjudications to report.
In Cleveland Police v Daily Mirror, the complaint was upheld. Cleveland Police complained, on behalf of a woman who was identified by the newspaper in 2011 as a victim of sexual assault in breach of Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. A court report had named an alleged victim and the newspaper’s publisher pleaded guilty to naming a victim of sexual assault in breach of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 and been fined. The PCC found: “Although the newspaper had acted properly in accepting at the first opportunity that it had breached the Code, this was an alarming case in which an individual who ought to have benefited from proper protection had instead been identified by name. The Commission upheld the complaint without hesitation“.
In Nicki McLellan v Kent and Sussex Courier, the complaint concerned an article headlined “Saleswoman who targeted doctor’s patients and poor is exposed“. The PCC upheld the complaint as a breach of Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge), finding that while “[i]t was clear that the investigation had uncovered material in the public interest”… it could not, however, “retrospectively justify the initial decision to engage in subterfuge“. Complaints under Clause 1 (accuracy) and Clause 4 (harassment) were not upheld.
Resolved cases included: Chris Magee v Daily Mirror, Clause 1, 22/02/2013; Mr Nicholas Thomas v The Independent, Clause 1, 21/02/2013; Steven Wolf v Daily Mail, Clause 1, 21/02/2013; Mr Orhan Bicer v Middleton Guardian, Clause 1, 21/02/2013; Mr Darren Meldrum v The Scottish Sun, Clause 3, 21/02/2013; Mr Simon Sanderson v Daily Mail, Clauses 1, 12, 21/02/2013; Mr William McNee v Daily Record, Clauses 3, 6, 21/02/2013; Mr William McNee v The Sun, Clauses 3, 6, 21/02/2013; A woman v The Daily Telegraph, Clauses 1, 3, 21/02/2013; David Sparkes v The Daily Mail, Clause 1, 21/02/2013; Mr Philip Davies MP v The Sunday Telegraph, Clause 1, 21/02/2013; Alan Cameron v Take a Break, Clauses 1, 3, 5, 21/02/2013; A man v Evening Standard, Clause 1, 19/02/2013; Mr Harry Cichy v The Independent, Clause 1, 18/02/2013.
In a blog post discussing Channel 4 News’ investigation into allegations about Lord Rennard, Cathy Newman touches on legal process, comparing a television and newspaper approach:
“Having worked for a decade in Fleet Street, where the legal constraints are rather less stringent, I must admit I found it at times a bit frustrating how long it took to jump through all the hoops. Now that we’ve done so I’m happy we’ve broadcast a story which left no stone unturned. But what we’ve discovered beneath has left many in the party uncomfortable”.
Research & resources
- Howard League for Penal Reform essay competition: Do the media facilitate or threaten the administration of justice in England and Wales?
- European Initiative for Media Pluralism: The ABC
- On Twitter: @USCMediaLaw, media law resources for the University of Southern California Law course, Media Law in the Digital Age (via Media Law Prof Blog)
- Past event resource – “Copyright in the Digital Age”, 16th annual Stanford Technology Law Review symposium [22 February 2013]
- Call for papers: 3rd Global Conference on Transparency Research, HEC Paris
Paris, France, 24 October, 2013 – 26 October, 2013
- ESRC statement on the European Commission’s proposed Data Protection Regulation
- David Erdos, UK Constitutional Law Group, Mustn’t Ask, Mustn’t Tell: Could New EU Data Laws Ban Historical and Legal Research? / and at Times Higher Education
- First version of a basic introduction to the Court of Protection, by Victoria Butler-Cole, 39 Essex Street (via TheSmallPlaces)
- Information Rights and Wrongs: We Still Have Judgment Here
- Lawrence Lessig – Aaron’s Laws: Law and Justice in a Digital Age
In the Courts
Tony Bennett, a retired solicitor, was given a suspended prison sentence after he alleged that child Madeline McCann’s parents caused their daughter’s disappearance (McCann & Anor v Bennett  EWHC 283 (QB) (21 February 2013) / (Sentencing Remarks)  EWHC 332 (QB) (21 February 2013)). The Lawyer reported on the case here.
Judgment was handed down in Al-Amoudi v Kifle  EWHC 293 (QB). Damages of £180,000 were awarded by Eady J [PDF].
There was an application in the case of Murray v Care on 20 February 2013.
A case worth noting, from the end of January: in Heafield v Times Newspaper Ltd  UKEAT (17 January 2013), the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that the use of bad language about the Pope did not constitute harassment within the meaning of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. The case was brought by a former sub-editor of the Times. The UK Human Rights Blog has a report here.
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.
16-17 May 2013, Legal frontiers in digital media: the sixth annual conference on emerging legal issues surrounding digital publishing and content distribution, Stanford University, Paul Brest Hall, Stanford, California.
23-24 May, “Social Media, Regulation and Freedom of Expression: A comparative perspective”. A workshop organized by HKBU and Tsinghua University, Communication & Visual Arts Building, Hong Kong Baptist University. Hong Kong.
Know of any media law events happening in the next few months? Please let Inforrm know: email@example.com.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Australia: In the case of Google Inc v ACCC ( HCA 1) the High Court of Australia held that Google was not liable for engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct as a result of the production of sponsored links. The is a note on the case on the Defamationwatch blog.
Ireland: On 14 February 2013, a Irish High Court jury awarded defamation damages of €150,000 to billionaire businessman Denis O’Brien in a claim against the Irish Daily Mail. The jury rejected the defence of honest opinion, finding that the article was not based on fact and was not in the public interest. Inforrm reported the case here.
United States: A Haitian-American journalist has been ordered to never again publish anything about the prime minister of Haiti or a Florida businessman, as part of a defamation judgment in the Southern District of Florida, RCFP reports.
Next week in the courts
On 25 February 2013, Silber J will hand down judgment in the harassment case of The wife and children of Omar Othman v The English National Resistance & ors.
On Tuesday 26 February 2013 there is an application in the case of Caborn-Waterfield v Gold & ors. The background to the case is set out in this report in the Daily Telegraph.
On 1 March 2013 there is a renewed application for permission to appeal in the privacy case of SKA v CRH. The present constitution is listed as Arden, Jackson and Beatson LJJ. The Case Tracker link is here.
Next week in Parliament
Monday 25 February 2013, 2.30pm, Legislation – Defamation Bill – Third reading – Lord McNally, Main Chamber, House of Lords.
Tuesday 26 February 2013, 4.30pm – 5pm, Director of Public Prosecutions’ interim guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media – Steve Rotheram, Westminster Hall, House of Commons.
Tuesday 26 February 2013, 2.45pm, Home Affairs select committee, Subject: e-Crime. Witness(es): Sarah Hunter, Head of UK Public Policy, Google and Simon Milner, Director of Public Policy, Facebook. Location: The Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons.
Wednesday 27 February, 3pm, Oral Questions – Amending the Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Lord Wills, Main Chamber, House of Lords.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Iqbal v. Mansoor, heard 31 October 2012 (Rix, Etherton and Lewison 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)
Thompson v James, heard 13 to 15 and 18 to 20 February 2013 (Tugendhat J).
Also on Inforrm last week
- News: Information Commissioner Consults on Data Protection and Press Code of Practice
- Leveson and the Regional Press: the misconceived “arbitration problem” – Hugh Tomlinson QC
- News, Exclusive: Carina Trimingham’s appeal against harassment ruling withdrawn
- Hugh Grant, Hypocrisy and Press Misinformation (again) – Eloise le Santo
- Hilary Mantel and the Duchess: a case of Royal libel? – Owen O’Rorke
- Case Law: Tamiz v Google Inc, Google may be a common law publisher – Gervase de Wilde
- Data Protection Code of Practice for the Press raises the prospect of enhanced protection for ordinary data subjects – Chris Pounder
- Leveson: The Latest Press Disinformation Campaign – Brian Cathcart
- News: Ireland, Jury award of €150,000 defamation damages against Irish Daily Mail
- Privacy is not the enemy – rebooted… Paul Bernal
- Leveson and ‘journalistic materials’: another myth – Brian Cathcart
- Hacking, blagging and bribing? The press after Leveson – Hugh Tomlinson QC
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.