Law and Media Round Up – 9 February 2015

9 02 2015

weekly-news-roundup4It was announced this week that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation will not be prosecuted in the USA in relation to payments to public officials in the UK. The United States Department of Justice has decided that the company will not face charges. The company had faced the threat of a prosecution under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

A tax official who received over £17,000 for supplying information to the Sun has been spared jail. Jonathan Hall, a senior press officer at HMRC, pleaded guilty to the charges, which included an unauthorised leak of the 2010 budget. Judge Peter Rook said Hall came “perilously close” to jail.

Julian Assange is considering suing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and has taken legal advice. The Wikileaks founder instructed his legal team to examine whether Nick Clegg should be sued after the stating that Assange had been “charged” with a crime during his “Call Clegg” phone -in discussion programme. Assange has never been charged or indicted in the UK.

The Crown Prosecution Service will take no further action against the unnamed Sun journalist and public official who were investigated over payments for stories. The CPS announced that there was “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction”.

The Sun’s crime reporter, Anthony France, has pleaded not guilty to offences arising out of alleged payments for stories.  He faces a single count of aiding and abetting a police officer to commit an offence of misconduct in public office.

The decision to swap judges in the retrial of senior Sun executives was the subject of contrived “outrage” by defence lawyers.  Judge Richard Marks QC presided over the original trial of Sun News Editor Chris Pharo and others. However it emerged this week that Judge Charles Wide will take over when the case is retried in September.  A defence lawyer demanded an explanation and suggested that it would appear as if “something has been going on behind the scenes”.  However, bearing  in mind the fact that no challenge was made to the impartiality of the replacement judge it is difficult to see what the fuss was about.

A patient who posted a bad review of her dentist online is being sued for £125,000 by the practice. Alison Dore posted a negative review of B Dental in Islington after being dissatisfied with the treatment she received during her tooth implants. The dental surgery claim her review was defamatory and are seeking damages. B Dental’s actions have been condemned by Yelp.

It is reported that a Blackpool fan who is being sued by the Oyston family has been given further three weeks to submit his defence after application for judgment in default was dismissed by a District Judge in Manchester.

Data Protection

Demands for new data protection regulation for Europe are growing. It has been three years the European Commission’s proposal for new regulation, but negotiations are nowhere near complete. The process was covered by the Field Fisher and Information Commissioner’s Office blogs.

Privacy Lives covers the problem with the anonymisation of data here.

The Datonomy weekly cyber update was published on 2 February 2015.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

On 4 February 2015, there was a statement in open court in the phone hacking case brought by Lord and Lady Archer against News Group Newspapers.

The Guardian apologised to former News of the World journalist, James Weatherup over “some inaccurate descriptions” in Nick Davies’ book, Hack Attack, which was serialised in the paper.  The Press Gazette quoted Mr Weatherup as saying that damages in a “four figure sum” (that is, less than £10,000) had been paid and his “reputation fully restored”.  On 4 July 2014, Mr Weatherup was sentenced to 4 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months and 200 hours community service after admitting phone hacking at the News of the World.

Newspapers, Journalism and regulation

On 3 February 2015, IPSO published a further series of adjudications.  No complaints against its members were upheld.  It also announced the membership of its appointments panel.

Red-top tabloids are losing sales faster than their rivals, according to the latest ABC figures. The Sun, Daily Star and Daily Mirror together sold 10% fewer copies in January this year compared to the same month in 2014. By contrast, the Times, Guardian, Independent, i, Financial Times and Daily Telegraph sold 5.6% fewer than a year ago.

Ed Miliband is facing a press onslaught which looks set to worsen before the election. Roy Greenslade covers his portrayal across the media here.

Last Week in the Courts

On 3 February 2015, Sir David Eady heard an application in the case of Bussey Law Firm v Page.  An ex tempore judgment was given.

On 4 February 2015, Sir David Eady heard an application in the case of Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd.  Judgment was reserved.

On the same day Warby J gave judgment in Yeo v Times Newspapers (No.2) ([2015] EWHC 209 (QB)), striking out the malice plea and cutting the claimant’s cost budget by one third.  The latter was discussed in a piece in the Law Society Gazette.

Events

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 Tasmanian government has dropped plans that would have allowed corporations to sue protestors for disparaging their reputations.  The proposals were aimed at curbing “radical environmental groups who make a hobby of spreading misinformation to markets with the aim of destroying Tasmanian jobs”, the state attorney general, Vanessa Goodwin, said at the time. However they were dropped due to a lack of “national consensus”.

Canada

In the case of Weaver v Corcoran and ors (2015 BCSC 165) claimant scientist Dr Andrew Weaver was awarded damages of Can $50,000 in respect of a series of articles in the National Post which alleged that he was untrustworthy, unscientific and incompetent.  Burke J held that

“the combination and cumulative effect of these articles is such as to adversely impact on Dr. Weaver’s reputation and integrity as a scientist. Imputations of dishonest behaviour on the part of a scientist or professor in that role can constitute defamation” [140].

The Judge rejected the defence of fair comment.  There were articles about the case in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the Huffington Post.

The Supreme Court of Canada is to hear the appeal from the Federal Court of Appeal in the case of Re X. The case brings up interesting issues related to foreign spying and misconduct by government lawyers. The case is covered by the Canadian Privacy Law blog.

Dubai

The Dubai Court of Cassation has stated a new principle on freedom of the press, claiming that it is guaranteed under the Constitution of the UAE provided it is not used to abuse or defame people. The new principle was issued in a case where the Court of Cassation upheld the judgment of Court of Appeal, ordering a Dubai newspaper to pay Dh100,000 compensation to a former CEO of a TV channel.

Ireland

A group of football fans claim they have been wrongly depicted as “drunken hooligans” on the Irish Sun website. Eight of the fans have issued defamation proceedings after their picture appeared alongside the headline ‘FAI boss Delaney stripped by fans’.  They claim they had no involvement in the incident described.

Northern Ireland

The former head of the Northern Ireland civil service will receive damages and legal costs after a successful libel action. Sir Gerry Loughran filed charges after press coverage of a Stormont watchdog report created the impression that he was somehow linked to a “suspected fraud”. An apology was also read out in the High Court.

The lack of reform to Northern Ireland’s libel laws is a source of regret for the government, according to the Government’s representative on Northern Ireland issues in the House of Lords. The Defamation Act was secret blocked from extending to Northern Ireland two years ago.

Scotland

Scottish libel law is being reviewed in an attempt to ensure it is “fit for the internet age”. A major review of the legislation has been launched amid concerns that the current law is endangering free speech.

Spain

Ryanair has lost a Supreme Court libel case against a consumer association.  A panel of judges ruled that the association was within its rights to describe the airline as “the lowest of the low” which “swindled and mocked its passengers”.

United States

Actress Lindsay Lohan and her mother Dina Lohan are suing the Fox News Network for defamation after a comment which accused the pair of “doing cocaine” with each other. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Research and Resources

Next week in the courts

The trial in Razzaq v Blackheath Jamia Mosque Trust & Others will begin on 9 February 2015 in Birmingham and is listed for 5 days.

On 11 February 2015 the Court of Appeal  (Jackson, Ryder and Christopher Clarke LJJ) will hand down judgment in the case Cruddas v Calvert, which was heard on 9, 10 and 11 December 2014.

On 12 February 2015, there will be an application in the case of Decker v Hopcraft.

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)

OPO v MLA, heard 9 and 20 January 2015 (UK Supreme Court)

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

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

Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd, heard 4 February 2015 (Sir David Eady).

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


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