Law and Media Round Up – 13 July 2015 [Updated]

13 07 2015

Weekly Round UPThe most high profile case of the week was the judgment of Nicol J in the case of Starr v Ward ([2015] EWHC 1987 (QB)).  This attracted widespread media comment with a number of newspapers suggesting that Mr Starr now faces a £1 million legal bill.  We had a case comment on this decision.

A number of commentators suggested that whistleblowers would be deterred from speaking out to the BBC after Ms Ward was “abandoned” by the corporation. In May last year, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to go ahead with criminal proceedings against Starr in relation to allegations by Ward and a further 13 complainants.

Former News of the World features editor, Jules Stenson, the last journalist to be sentenced over his role in phone hacking received a 4 month suspended sentence on 6 July 2015.  In passing sentence the Mr Justice Saunders said [pdf] that he was satisfied that “people working for the News of the World were concerned in wide spread phone hacking between 2002 and 2006”. 

The basis of Mr Stenson’s plea was that his co-conspirators were Andy Coulson and Dan Evans.  The Judge noted that

Mr. Stenson’s case is that he allowed himself to be drawn into phone hacking because he was put under pressure to produce stories by Mr. Coulson and he was driven to use illegal means in order to avoid the sack.

He noted that the prosecution accepted Mr Stenson’s case that he did not know phone hacking was against the law.  He took a number of mitigating factors into account in deciding that a suspended sentence of 4 months imprisonment was appropriate.  There was a post about the sentencing on the Jurist.

A man has been charged with an offence under section 5 of the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1992 after naming the victim of a sexual offence in a comment on the South Yorkshire Police Facebook page.

Last week’s decision In the matter of an application by JR38 for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) [2015] UKSC 42,has been the subject of a number case comments:

Data Protection and Data Privacy

Statewatch has the latest version of the Data Protection Regulation [pdf] as a four column document with all the EU institutions negotiation positions set out.

The Panopticon blog notes a decision of the Viennese Regional Civil Court in the class action brought by Austrian law graduate Max Schrems against Facebook. The Court decided that it did not have jurisdiction and that the proper place to bring the claim is either Ireland or California.  Mr Schrems has announced his intention to appeal.

The Hunton and Williams Privacy and Information Security Law Blog has a post about the Article 29 Working Party opinion on the use of Drones [pdf].

The Privacy and Information Law Blog notes that the French data protection authority, CNIL, has sent formal letters of enforcement to 20 companies requesting them to comply with cookie rules in France.

The Datonomy blog has a Cyber Update for the week commencing 6 July 2015

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

There were statement in open court in the cases of Ben Jackson v MGN [pdf],  Bobbie Holland Hanton and Emma Noble v MGN, read on 8 July 2015 before Mann J.  The statements were reported in the Press Gazette and on the BBC website.

Newspapers, Journalism and regulation

The Daily Telegraph was censured by IPSO over a “significantly misleading report” that Nicola Sturgeon back David Cameron.  However, as the Hacked Off website pointed out, there was a tiny correction for what had been a front page splash. There was a report in the Press Gazette.

IPSO also found MailOnline was in breach of clause 3 of the Code over a story headlined ’My Ukrainian internet bride asked me to have sex within hours of meeting her while her eight-year-old son was in the room… so I did’.  There was a report  in the Press Gazette.

There is a piece by Adam Barnett on Byline entitled “Tory Press Flip-Flop on non-doms – here’s what they said in April”.

The Media Blog is now six years old.  It has a post of its Top 10 Stories over the past 6 years.

Last Week in the Courts

On Monday 6 July 2015 the trial of the preliminary issue in the case of Rahman v ARY Network Ltd concluded before Haddon-Cave JJudgment was reserved.

As already mentioned, on 10 July 2015 Nicol J handed down judgment in the case of Starr v Ward

Events

Please let us know if there are any events you would like to be included on this list by email: inforrmeditorial@gmail.com.

Media Law in Other Jurisdictions

Australia

In the case of Zwambila v Wafawarova [2015] ACTSC 171 the Zimbabwean ambassador to Australia was awarded Aus$180,000 in respect of defamatory articles published in Zimbabwean newspapers concerning an allegation that she had stripped to her underwear in front of embassy staff in order to express her anger.  There is a news report of the decision on the NewsdzeZimbabwe website.

Canada

In the case of Condon v Canada, 2014 FC 250, the Federal Court of Appeal held that claims for negligence and breach of confidence could proceed as a class action.  The claim follows the Federal Government’s loss of a hard drive concerning personal information about 583,000 people.  There is a post about the decision on the Canadian Privacy Law blog.

In the case of St Lewis v Rancourt (2015 ONCA 513) the Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed the appeal by the defendant against a defamation judgment.  The claim concerned a post on the defendant’s personal blog in which he referred to the plaintiff as the University president’s “house negro”.  There were reports about the appeal in the Ottawa Citizen and on the Canadian Lawyer Blog.

India

It is reported that the Supreme Court has refused to grant an interim injunction to block porn websites in India.  In the course of argument the Chief Justice observed

“Such interim orders cannot be passed by this court. Somebody may come to the court and say look I am above 18 and how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room. It is a violation of Article 21 [right to personal liberty],”

The New Indian Express has an article about the decision entitled “Is Watching Porn a fundamental right?”

Ireland

The Limerick Leader reports that three travellers are suing the Sunday World newspaper for defamation over an article concerning the death of the husband of one of the plaintiffs.  The trial is continuing in the District Court.

It is reported by the Sunday Times that John Brown, the brother of Dana Rosemary Scallon, a former MEP and Eurovision song  contest winner is suing Facebook for defamation over comments on the Facebook pages of media organisations that covered his 2014 trial of alleged sex abuse.

The Guardian reports that the Republic of Ireland assistant manager and former professional footballer Roy Keane is suing Paddy Power for breach of his image rights arising out of an advertisement which portrays him as William Wallace in the film Braveheart.

Kenya

The leader of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions, Francis Atwoli, has lost a defamation claim against Kazungu Kambi and three MPs. He claimed that they had defamed him by linking him to the killing of MP George Muchai.

Research and Resources

Next week in the courts

On Monday 13 July 2015 the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) will hear the Information Commissioner’s appeal in the case of Colenso-Dunne v ICO.  The First Tier Tribunal ordered the ICO to disclose the names of journalists who instructed Steve Whittamore and whose details were found in the course of Operation Motorman. The tribunal’s decision was handed down on 13 November 2013.

On the same day Warby J will hear an assessment of damages in the case of Sloutsker v Romanova.

On 16 July 2015 there will be an application in the case of Yeo v Times Newspapers.

Judgments

The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:

Pinard-Byrne v Linton, heard 22 April 2015 (Judicial Committee of the Privy Council).

Masters v Palmer, heard 5 May 2015 (HHJ Moloney QC).

Otuo v Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, heard 14 May 2015 (HHJ Moloney

Rahman v ARY Network Ltd, heard 1, 2 and 6 July 2015 (Haddon-Cave J).


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