The Inforrm short Easter break ends today with a Law and Media Round Up covering the past fortnight and the forthcoming week. The Easter Legal Term starts today and runs until 22 May 2015. We are not aware of any libel or privacy trials listed over this period.
The last two weeks have seen a number of developments in the continuing saga of Operation Eleven prosecutions.
The jurors in the trial of the ‘tabloid four’ have retired. The Sun’s Tom Wells, Neil Millard and Brandon Malinsky and former Daily Mirror reporter Graham Brough all deny charges of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.The trial began in February at the Old Bailey.
The trial of a former Daily Mirror journalist, also part of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Eleven inquiry, has been delayed pending a Crown Prosecution Service review. Journalist Greig Box Turnbull is charged with making illegal payments to a public official, and had been due to stand trial alongside prison officer Grant Pizzey and his partner Desra Reilly.
It is reported that the Metropolitan Police is “sitting on dozens of unopened bin-bags of material” gathered by officers investigating Trinity Mirror national newspapers. The bags were gathered as part of Operation Golding, which is investigating phone-hacking across the Mirror titles. Operation Elveden officers are also investigating allegations of payments to public officials at the newspaper group.
The CPS will not seek a retrial for a News of the World journalist whose conviction for a paying public official was quashed by the Court of Appeal. It has also asked for an adjournment in an Operation Elveden trial involving a journalist while it considers the “wider implications” of the decision in R v ABC and others  EWCA Crim 359.
Meanwhile, it is reported that the perjury trial of former News of the World Andy Coulson in the High Court in Edinburgh has been put back to 11 May 2015.
The Mail on Sunday, The Sun and Grazia magazine have all retracted a story reporting that supermodel Kate Moss was picked up in an ambulance after a party. The story seemed to originate with the Mail on Sunday on 8 March, who reported that an ambulance was called to collect Moss from the birthday party of photographer Mario Testino. The paper printed a page-two correction on Sunday.
The Daily Mirror has apologised to businessman Ayman Asfari, after publishing an article alleging that he had “courted controversy” by dealing with the regime of of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Asfari, group chief executive of oil and gas industry services supplier Petrofac, sued MGN Ltd over articles which appeared in the Daily Mirror in February.
Nick Clegg has argued that the law should be changed in order to give journalists accused of corrupting public officials by paying for stories a clear public interest defence. The Deputy Prime Minister criticised the “opaque” nature of the system and said prosecutors were relying on outdated laws in deciding whether journalists should go on trial. The Daily Mail has condemned this pledge.
A footballer who obtained an anonymity order against a woman selling a kiss-and-tell story to The Sun was named as Manchester United’s Marcos Rojo.
It is reported that Nigel Farage is facing a second possible libel action from a former UKIP MEP, Amjad Bashir. This follows a libel action by Al Murray over claims in Nigel Farage’s book that Mr Murray was breaking election expenditure rules.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
Facebook has admitted to tracking users who do not have an account with the social network, but denied being in breach of European data privacy laws. Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president of policy for Europe, said that the tracking only happened because of a bug, which is now being fixed.
New research has found that 72% of British adults worry about their private information online, are concerned about hackers and question who has access to their data. The research, conducted by YouGov found that 32% of respondents would be willing to pay to protect their information online.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court last week.
Newspapers, Journalism and Regulation
IPSO has ruled that the Daily Star “substantially” misled their readers with a story headlined: “Too fat to wash! Grubby gran who weighed 20 stone didn’t have a bath for 20 years.” The story was based on an interview Linda Pearson gave to a press agency about losing 16 stone. Pearson complained, saying that while she had not had a bath in 20 years, she had washed and was therefore not “grubby”.
IPSO has rejected a ‘No More Page Three’ complaint over an opinion piece saying that the campaign wanted to “ban boobs”. The watchdog rejected a complaint arguing that the Belfast Telegraph breached Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code of Practice, covering accuracy, in an article headlined “Sisters making a boob by bullying us into equality”.
The Sun’s circulation figures do not seem to have been damaged by its decision to drop Page 3. The sales audit shows that it sold an average of 1,858,067 copies in March, an improvement on the month of February.
The BBC has been criticised by Ofcom after broadcasting a recording of a 999 call made by a woman shortly before she was murdered. The call, made by Lucy Lee shortly before she was shot dead by her mother’s partner at a puppy breeding farm, was played before the watershed. Ofcom said the call had the “clear potential to disturb viewers”.
The media landscape is being dominated by the pro-Conservative agenda, according to Roy Greenslade. Analysis of stories on the future of Trident and the tax status of non-doms show the Tory press have speaking “with one voice”, he says.
29 April 2015 Advertising & Marketing Law Conference, IBC Legal Conferences, London
12 May 2015, IBC’s 22nd Annual Defamation and Privacy Conference, Grange City Hotel, London
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong has dropped his lawsuit against journalist Laura Robinson. Furlong was accused of being abusive towards students in Catholic schools while working as a teacher. Furlong decided to drop the case after three other sexual abuse suits against him were dismissed.
The feud between Winnipeg fashion designer Peter Nygard and his Bahamian neighbour has escalated, with allegations that the neighbour was involved in a fire which damaged Nygard’s Bahamas estate. Nygard made the allegations in a US$50 million countersuit, seeking damages from billionaire hedge fund manager Louis Bacon for harassment and frivolous litigation.
The government has sought a report from the Law Commission whether defamation should be decriminalised before reporting to the Supreme Court on the issue. The Law Commission has held a consultation on the subject and suggested that “respondents overwhelmingly expressed dissatisfaction with the present state of defamation law”.
The woman who accused Prince Andrew of sexual abuse now faces action for defamation by another target of her allegations. Virginia Roberts, 31, claimed that she was used as a teenage “sex slave” at parties organised by Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire financier who was convicted of paedophilia in 2008. Alan Dershowitz, a prominent US lawyer, has said that he will pursue a defamation case against Roberts, despite a federal judge ruling this week that her claims be removed from court records.
HBO is facing a defamation claim over a “hoax” child labour report. Mitre Sports International have accused the broadcaster of broadcasting a report titled “Children of Industry” which was full of “fabricated” or “dramatized scenes in a 2008 programme entitled Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. According to Mitre, it has interviewed the children shown and they have admitted that they were paid by producers to pretend to be child labourers.
Retired basketball star Shaquille O’Neal has had a defamation lawsuit dismissed over a lack of jurisdiction. O Neill was accused after allegedly mocking Jahmel Binion, who suffers from genetic disorder hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, on social media.
A man who allegedly libelled the President of Sierra Leone on WhatsApp has been denied bail. Mamoud Tim Kargbo described President Ernest Bai Koroma as a “wounded Beast” on the messaging application.
Research and Resources
- A Poisen in Ye Commonwealthe: Seditious Libel in Hanoverian London, 26 Anglo-American Law Review 341 (1997), Jeffrey K. Walker, SSRN
- “Forcing Europe to Wear the Rose-Colored Google Glass: The ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ and the Struggle to Manage Compliance Post Google Spain” Steven Michael LoCascio, Columbia Journal of Transnational Law,SSRN
- “Nonconsensual Pornography and the First Amendment: A Case for a New Unprotected Category of Speech” University of Miami Law Review, Forthcoming, Alix Iris Cohen, SSRN.
- Defamation on Facebook: Isparta v Richter 2013 6 SA 529 (GP) Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, Vol. 17, No. 6, 2014, Anneliese Roos and Magda Slabbert, SSRN
- The Resistance of Memory: Could the European Union’s Right to be Forgotten Exist in the United States? 30 Berkeley Tech. L.J. (July 2015, Forthcoming), Ravi Antani, SSRN
- Data Retention and its Implications for the Fundamental Right to Privacy Tilburg Law Review 20 (2015) 14-34, Arianna Vedaschi and Valerio Lubello, SSRN
Next week in the courts
We are not aware of any media law cases in the Courts this week.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
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)
Various Claimants v MGN, heard 9-13, 18, 24-25 March 2015 (Mann J)
This Round Up was compiled by Tessa Evans, a journalist and researcher. She tweets @tessadevans