The legal term ended on Friday 31 July 2015 and we will not be publishing regular “Law and Media Round Ups” again until the beginning of next term in October 2015. We will, however, publish occasional “Summer Round Ups” drawing attention to recent developments. This is the first. We will also publish, shortly, a Round Up of the Legal Year.
Unusually, there was only two reserved judgments handed down in the last week of term – both by Warby J. The first, Lachaux v Independent Print ( EWHC 2242 (QB)), handed down on Thursday 30 July 2015 only 9 days after the two day hearing. This is the most significant first instance judgment of the year, dealing with important legal and procedural issues arising out of the “serious harm test” in section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013.
Warby J tackled a 73 page skeleton from the claimants and submissions from two sets of defendants, producing a 190 paragraph judgment. He dealt comprehensively with two important legal issues: what is needed to prove “serious harm” and whether account is taken of other similar publications. There was a 5RB case comment and will have an Inforrm case comment shortly along with a post on the procedural points arising from the decision.
AOL, the publisher of the Huffington Post is to seek the judge’s permission to appeal his decision on serious harm.
On 31 July 2015, the same judge handed down judgment in JTR v HNL ( EWHC 2298 (QB)) in which he refused the applicant permission to seek committal of the respondent to prison for telling lies in a witness statement in earlier litigation.
A number of ex tempore judgments were given by HHJ Moloney in the course of the week. In Veen v Goff (27 July 2015). HHJ Moloney QC considered the question as to whether the claimant had capacity to conduct a libel action. He adjourned the matter for 6 months pending the appointment of a litigation friend. He also gave judgments in Umeyor v Nwakamma (28 July 2015), McGrath v Bedford (on 30 July 2015) and in Tardios v Linton (on 31 July 2015)
Even more unusually, there were no statements in open court this week. Benjamin Pell draws our attention to the fact that this is only the second time that there have been no such statements in the last week of the legal year since at least 1996 (the first was in 2014).
The Press Gazette had two pieces on the jailing of newspaper sources under Operation Elveden. First, a piece by editor Dominic Ponsford: “The betrayal of newspaper sources jailed under Operation Elveden casts a shadow over our industry”, drawing attention to the “shameful way News UK and more recently Trinity Mirror have thrown sources to the wolves”. Second, a piece summarising the sentences handed down “Jailed for more than 20 years: The sources convicted of selling stories to journalists”
Roy Greenslade had a piece on Clare Rewcastle Brown, the editor of a Malaysian news website, the Sarawak Report, and has complained to the police that she is being harassed by men employed by the Malaysian ruling party.
We draw attention to a few interesting data protection posts
- The Right to be Forgotten and the County Court, Christopher Knight, Panopticon
- EDPS warns that data processing under the Regulation “must be both lawful and justified” Chris Pounder, Hawktalk.
- German DPA takes on Facebook again, Stephan Zimprich, Privacy and Information Law Blog
Some news from other jurisdictions
Australia: The Court of Appeal in Victoria allowed an appeal in the case of Vakras v Cripps ( VSCA 193) – an important decision in relation to damages for online libel. A new trial was ordered in relation to two of the five pleaded imputations. The Court held, however, that the aware of compensatory damages was not “manifestly excessive”.
Canada: Nutrition researcher Ranjit Kumar has lost his libel action against the CBC after a 58 day trial. The judge held that the words complained of were true. There is a report on “Retraction Watch” but the judgment does not appear to be available online.
Scotland: It is reported that three accountants involved in the takeover of Rangers FC have served libel proceedings on the BBC arising out of a documentary “The Men Who Sold the Jerseys”. Damages of £3 million are reportedly being sought.
Trinidad and Tobago: The former Attorney-General Anand Ramlogan, has been awarded damages of TT$894,000 (£90,000) against the leader of the Independent Liberal Party (and former FIFA Vice-President), Jack Warner. Once again, the judgment is not available online.
United States: Actor James Woods is suing an anonymous individual for describing him as a “cocaine sniffer” on Twitter. He is seeking damages of $10 million.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
Pinard-Byrne v Linton, heard 22 April 2015 (Judicial Committee of the Privy Council).
Rahman v ARY Network Ltd, heard 1, 2 and 6 July 2015 (Haddon-Cave J).
Colenso-Dunne v ICO heard 13 July 2015 (Judge Wikeley)