Law and Media Round Up – 2 February 2015

2 02 2015

weekly roundupRegulation was again in the news this week with Hacked Off and Paul Vickers, the chair of the Regulatory Funding Company, the IPSO funding body, giving evidence to the House of Lords Communications Committee.

Mr Vickers made it clear that the IPSO rules were not going to be changed.  He criticised the press regulator for failing to set up a whistleblowers’ hotline.  He said that the line “should be there”. The hotline was recommended by Lord Justice Leveson and is included in IPSO’s founding documents.

The Sun Four Trial concluded its fourth week.  The court hearing that reporters “worked in fear” of Rebekah Brooks while she edited the Sun, as “people were hired and fired on a regular basis”. The court heard the testimony of Charlotte Hull, a former administrative assistant to The Sun’s news desk, who was responsible for administrating cash payments for sources. Hull confirmed that from 2008 every one had to be approved by the editor.

The CPS has responded to a Times editorial questioning its prosecution of Sun journalists.  In a letter to the Times, CPS Chief Executive Peter Lewis, pointed out that

The work of two parliamentary select committees and the subsequent Leveson inquiry revealed serious questions over the techniques used by some journalists which may have amounted to systematic and flagrant breaches of the law”.

In relation to the prosecution of journalists, he said that in completed prosecutions 10 journalists had been convicted of one or more mattters, one accepted a caution and 7 have been acquitted of all matters.  The CPS has decided that 25 journalists who were the subject of files submitted by the police should not face prosecution.

The High Court has blocked phone-hacking damages claims brought by John Leslie, former TV presenter, and Jeff Brazier, the partner of the late Jade Goody. In 2012, Brazier accepted offers of substantial damages from the publisher of the now-defunct News of the World. The judge ruled this week that Brazier was “bound” by the compromise, which barred the bringing of another action.

The Press Gazette reports that two more journalists have emerged as police spying targets. It has been revealed that two more Sun journalists, as well as political editor Tom Newton Dunn, had their phone records viewed during the Plebgate inquiry. The Metropolitan Police allegedly misled the Press Gazette over the extent to which it used RIPA to spy on journalists during its Operation Alice investigation. The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has denied the suggestion.

The fourth edition of Duncan and Neill on Defamation, published in the Butterworths Common Law series, is now on sale. The new edition has been revised to take account the Defamation Act 2013.

Data Protection

Google will change its privacy policy and better inform users about how it handles personal information, after signing an agreement with the data regulator ICO this week. Google has agreed to make the changes after an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office found its current policy too vague. The ICO must make the changes by June 30.

The law surrounding IP addresses may be shifting, with the ECJ Ryneš ruling implying that they may constitute personal data in themselves. Hawktalk covered this in an interesting analysis found here.

A new privacy policy has come into force on Facebook, which allows the social networking site to harvest information from any partner websites browsed and use it to tailor the adverts on individual newsfeeds. It also allows the site to collect information from partner apps, which include most mainstream iPhone and Android apps.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

There were no statements in open court this week.

Newspapers, Journalism and regulation

Roy Greenslade has called for the Trinity Mirror to come clean about phone hacking, arguing that the publisher repeatedly side-stepped the issue. It therefore missed an opportunity to “take the moral high ground” by admitting past indiscretions.

This week demonstrated the danger of trusting research conducted by politicians, with the Daily Express running an extremely misleading front page story based on a flawed piece of research conducted by eurosceptic politicians. The survey commissioned by Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell further confirms this, containing the statement “Britain must stand firm against terrorism and extremism”, the two options being “Yes – Protect British people against evil!” or “No – human rights are more important”. The Media Blog covered the issue here.

Last Week in the Courts

The trial in Rai v Bholowasia concluded on Tuesday 27 January 2015 before HHJ Parkes QC.  Judgment was reserved.

On 26 January 2015, Mann J gave judgment in the case of Brazier v NGN ([2015] EWHC 125 (Ch))

On the same day Warby J heard the CMC and an application in the case of Yeo v Times Newspapers.  Judgment was reserved.

On 27 January 2015 Warby J gave judgment in the case of Ames & anr v The Spamhaus Project Ltd ([2015] EWHC 127 (QB)).  The Jameel strike out application by the defendant anti-spam group was dismissed.

On the same day Warby J gave judgment  on costs in the case of Simpson v MGN ([2015] EWHC 126 (QB).   He also gave judgment in the case of Kerner v WX ([2015]  EWHC 128 (QB))

On 28 January 2015 there was an application in the case of Al Saud & Anor v Forbes LLC & Ors before Sir Michael Tugendhat.  Judgment was reserved.

On the same day there was an application in the libel case of Liberty Fashion Wears Ltd v Primark Stores Limited  before HHJ Parkes QC, who gave an ex tempore judgment. 

On 29 January 2015 the Court of Appeal (Moore-Bick and Tomlinson LJJ and Sir Robin Jacob) heard the appeal in the case of R (Ingenious Media) v HMRC.  Judgment was reserved.

On 30 January 2015, there was a hearing in the case of Mitchell v NGN  before Mitting J.  He ordered the former minister to pay the costs of NGN and of PC Toby Rowland.  It emerged that Mr Mitchell had  refused to settle the case despite being offered a deal by the Sun two months before the trial.

Events

4 February 2015: “Freedom of Information: Ten Years On: Freedom Fighting or Lazy Journalism”, The Media Society, London

24 February 2015, “Does Privacy Matter?” Launch of IALS Centre for Law and Information Policy, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

4 March 2015: “Oxford Media Convention, IPPR” Said Business School, University of Oxford

Know of any media law events happening later this summer or in the autumn? Please let Inforrm know: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Australia

The Queensland premier, Campbell Newman, has accused his lawyers of contempt of court and interfering with the administration of justice. Newman faces a $1.2m defamation suit after being accused of defaming two solicitors.

Clive Palmer, the leader of the Palmer United Party, has announced his intention to file a defamation lawsuit against Queensland’s health minister. Palmer used twitter to announce his plan to sue after the state election.

On 27 January 2015, J Forrest J gave judgment in the case of Gluyas v Canby [2015] VSC 11.  For the second time in a year Philip Gluyas, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s won a defamation claim against a US anti-autism blogger. There was a report of the decision on the Autism Daily News review.

Canada

Bill C-13, the Lawful Access Legislation, formally known as the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, has received Royal Assent, and will come into effect on March 9 2015.  The Bill deals with cyber bullying and the investigation of terrorism, enhancing police access to information held by telecommunications facilities.

Thailand

An Australian journalist will return to Thailand in order to face a defamation charge from the Thai navy.  Alan Morrison faces the charges after alleging abuse of Rohingyan asylum seekers by Thai authorities.

United States

A hedge fund billionaire has filed a $50 million defamation suit against his Bahamas neighbour, after being accused of arson, racism, drug trafficking and murder. He claims his neighbour has waged an “obsessive and malicious” smear campaign for years.

The architect Zaha Hadid has settled her case against the New York Review of Books and critic Martin Filler. Hadid had filed the suit after Filler wrote that Hadid “unashamedly disavowed any responsibility, let alone concern” for an “estimated one thousand laborers who have perished” while building the Al Wakrah stadium she designed for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Research and Resources

Next week in the courts

On 3 February 2015, there will be an application in the case of Bussey Law Firm v Page

On 4 February 2015, there will be an application in the case of Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd.

Judgments

The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:

R (Evans) v HM Attorney-General, heard 24 and 25 November 2014 (UK Supreme Court)

Rufus v Elliott, heard 10 December 2014 (McCombe and Sharp LJJ and Mitting J)

Cruddas v Calvert, heard 9, 10 and 11 December 2014 (Jackson, Ryder and Christopher Clarke LJJ)

OPO v MLA, heard 19 and 20 January 2015 (UK Supreme Court)

Murray v Associated Newspapers, heard 21 January 2015 (Longmore, Ryder and Sharp LJJ)

Yeo v Times Newspapers, heard 26 January 2015 (Warby J)

Rai v Bholowasia heard 19-23, and 26 to 27 January 2015 (HHJ Parkes QC).

Al Saud & Anor v Forbes LLC & Ors heard 28 January 2015 (Sir Michael Tugendhat).

This Round Up was compiled by Tessa Evans, a journalist and researcher.  She tweets @tessadevans

 


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