Law and Media Round Up – 21 December 2015

21 12 2015

Media and Law RoundupThe Michaelmas Legal Term ends today and this is the last Law and Media Round Up of 2015.  The next round up will be at the beginning of the new legal term on 11 January 2016. Happy holidays to all Inforrm readers.

This last week has been a busy one with the dismissal by the Court of Appeal of the Mirror Group appeal in the phone hacking damages case being the most widely covered media law story of the week, with MGN losing its appeal over damages paid to eight victims of phone hacking. The company had argued that the £1.25m it was told to pay in total was “out of all proportion” to the harm done. However, its appeal  was rejected on all grounds.

The Court of Appeal found that the original judgment was thorough, fair and well-reasoned and correct.  The court even went further and concluded that MGN “repeatedly  engaged  in  disgraceful  actions  and ransacked  the  respondents’  voicemail  to  produce  in  many  cases  demeaning articles about wholly innocent members of the public”.

Arden LJ also said:

“MGN cannot expect this court to come to its rescue and find some way of finding the awards to be excessive when its staff have been responsible for disgraceful conduct with such distressing consequences”.

The decision has thrown the spotlight back onto the CPS’s decision against charging Mirror Group journalists with phone hacking.

Trinity Mirror increased its provision to deal with the phone hacking cases to £41 million.

The Mirror Group also lost the appeal in relation to costs in the case brought by Alan Yentob.

Meanwhile, it was reported that the victims of Mirror Group phone hacking were asking the CPS to review the decision not to prosecute Mirror journalists.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has ruled that the Metropolitan Police was justified in three out of four instances in which it grabbed the call records of Sun journalists in order to find police sources.

However, it has also ruled that the authorisations were not compatible with Article 10 of the European Convention because the law, as it stood, did not take into account the reporters’ right to freedom of expression and the importance of protecting confidential sources.

The Panopticon blog wrote about the case here, arguing that the systemic problem is this case was that the earlier regime lacked safeguards against intrusions into press freedom.

In other news, a former soldier in Prince Harry’s regiment has been found not guilty of committing misconduct in a public office by selling stories to two tabloid papers. Paul Brunt, 33, was arrested under Operation Elveden and accused of receiving £16,000 in payments after giving information to The Sun and News of the World. The Old Bailey jury took less than three hours to clear him of wrongdoing.

Katie Price has settled a privacy claim against her ex-husband Peter Andre and former manager Claire Powell.The full terms of the deal over the action for misuse of confidential information were not disclosed at the High Court.

Finally, we note that former media practitioner Sharp LJ has been appointed Vice-President of the Queen’s Bench Division for a period of 3 years from 1 January 2016.  She succeeds Davis LJ in the role.

Data Protection and Data Privacy

The GDPR has finally been agreed by the trilogue. While the agreed text has not yet been made publicly available, we had a post about this and a post from Daphne Keller on the position of internet intermediaries.  There were also posts from:

The Optanon blog, which described is as perhaps the most “significant piece of privacy legislation ever”. The fieldfisher Privacy and Information law blog published a “Getting to know the GDPR” blog series, as well as an analysis of the announcement herePrivacy International welcomed the long overdue announcement, but questioned the enormous effort and millions of pounds spent on it, arguing that the ambition of making EU data protection laws fit for this century has not been achieved. The ICO blog also reflected on the GDPR, arguing that “ a new law will remind people of their data protection rights, and remind organisations of their data protection responsibilities. That can only be welcomed”.

The Information Commissioner’s Office blog has released its most read stories of the year, having been in the news throughout 2015. A story about Google changing its privacy policy topped this year’s list.

Hawktalk have analysed government policy towards the wider use of the National Insurance number as a general identifier here, arguing that this shifting policy now illustrates that “what goes around comes around”.

Freedom of Information

The former head of the Civil Service has praised the importance of the Freedom of Information Act. Lord Kerslake, speaking before an independent cross-party review of the FoI chaired by Tom Watson said he believed the act “tips the balance towards openness” in the Civil Service.

A Labour government would give citizens access to policy-making processes “at every level”, Watson has promised, as he accused Cameron of trying to “govern from the shadows” when it comes to the FoI review.

Furthermore, the Government is said to be feeling  “cold feet” over the idea of weakening the Freedom of Information Act. The Sun quotes a minister as arguing the act has become a “hot political potato” after a public backlash over the suggestion it could be weakened.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

There were no statements in open court this week.

Newspapers Journalism and Regulation

For the first time, newspaper and magazine publishing groups regulated by IPSO have published their annual statements. They have released information about publishers’ approaches to editorial standards, complaints-handling and records of compliance. Roy Greenslade discusses these annual statements here, pointing out the ironies in some papers’ guides on how to act ethically.

News publishers have been asked to vote on new rules for IPSO, which would stop them being able to “obfuscate and resist” standards investigations. The revised rules for IPSO  have been published after a year of negotiations between the regulator’s board and publishers.

Reporting on the global migration and refugee crisis often fails to give complete information and routinely fall into propaganda traps, according to a report published by the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN).  “Around the world, media coverage is often politically led” said Aidan White, EJN’s director.

Roy Greenslade has criticised The Daily Mail’s treatment of Kate Middleton in what he described as a “risible and childish” piece of journalism. The article described her as looking “shattered” and urged her to have a “a well-deserved rest”.

The Daily Express’s report that “English is starting to die out” in our schools is “completely unsupported” according to The Media Blog. The paper has now published a correction at the request of IPSO, clarifying that “”English is the language of instruction in all maintained schools in England”.

Last week in the Courts

On Monday and Tuesday 14 and 15 December 2015, Dingemans J heard an application in the case of Lokhova v Tymula. Judgment was reserved.

On the same day the trial in Ali-Khan v Galloway MP was fixed.  This will begin on 20 June 2015 and is listed for 5 days.  The background can be found here.

On 16 December 2015 Dingemans J heard an application for permission to pay money out of court in the case of Price v Powell, following settlement of the case.

On the same day the application for permission to appeal in the case of Lachaux v Independent Print (and the two other linked Lachaux cases) was referred to a Lord/Lady Justice for a decision on the papers.

As already mentioned on 17 December 2015, the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in the case of Representative Claimants v MGN ([2015] EWCA Civ 1291).

On 18 December 2015, there was an application in the case of Unnadkat v Patel & ors.

On the same date Sir Michael Tugendhat gave judgment in the case of Lachaux v Independent Print [2015] EWHC 3677 (QB).  The Court grant injunctions in relation to documents subject to legal professional privilege which were obtained by the defendants from his former wife.

There was also a hearing in the case of Barron v Collins before HHJ Moloney QC.  The assessement of compensation under an offer of amends was adjourned on terms.

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

Canada

The defamation lawsuit filed by former journalist Arthur Kent has concluded, with the plaintiff claiming he was the victim of a hit piece. Kent’s lawyer argued that a column critical of his client’s campaign for public office used trumped up language and was biased on behalf of the Progressive Conservative party sources.

A Canadian blogger has been accused of defamation by an Ontario based consulting firm. Mark Silverthorn is being sued by New Beginnings Debt Consulting. The blog post regards an impromptu review after a meeting with the Plaintiff’s key executive regarding debt settlement services.

A cyberbullying law in Nova Scotia that allows justices of the peace to issue “protection orders” prohibiting people from communicating about other people has been struck down on constitutional grounds.

Ontario’s Court of Appeal has dismissed the appeal of a decision that found lawyer Richard Warman defamed by commentators on Free Dominion, a conservative website.

India

Finance minister Arun Jaitley is to file defamation cases against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal amid a row over irregularities in the Delhi cricket administration. He accused them of issuing false and defamatory statements against him and his family members.

Ireland

It is reported that the Attorney-General has called for a review of defamation laws in relation to court reporting.

A man found to have abused a bus driver for not giving him a receipt for 5 cents has lost his €75,000 claim for defamation. John Moran faces a legal costs bill of close to €20,000 after his case against Dublin Bus was dismissed at the Circuit Civil Court.

Singapore

A Singapore High Court judge has ordered a blogger to pay the prime minister S$150,000 ($106,172) in damages for defamation. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong successfully sued the blogger, Roy Ngerng, for a post last year which implicated Lee in improperly managing funds in a mandatory retirement savings scheme.

South Korea

A Japanese journalist has been found not guilty of defaming South Korea’s President. A report in Japan’s Sankei Shimbun questioned Park’s whereabouts on the day of the Sewol ferry disaster.

USA

Bill Cosby has filed a defamation suit against seven women who have accused him of sexual assault or misconduct. Cosby has claimed that the women have made “malicious, opportunistic and false and defamatory accusations of sexual misconduct” against him. More than 50 women have come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual assault or misconduct.

Singer Madonna has defended ex-husband Sean Penn, saying he never physically abused her during their marriage. Penn has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Empire creator Lee Daniels, after he implied in an interview that Penn hit women.

Barack Obama is set to sign the most substantial piece of cybersecurity legislation in years, after an intense period of negotiations was able to get the bill ready to be attached to a new government spending measure.

Research and Resources

Next week in the courts

As already mentioned, the Michaelmas legal term ends today. The Hilary Term will begin on Monday 11 January 2016.  The Courts will only sit to deal with urgent matters during this period.  The Court offices are closed from 24 December to 28 December 2015 inclusive and on 1 January 2015.  The following Vacation Judges will be sitting in the Queen’s Bench Division to deal with urgent applications: 21 to 29 December, Knowles J; 29 December 2015 to 4 January 2016, Edis J; 4 to 11 January 2016.  Jay J

Judgments

The following reserved judgment in a media law cases is outstanding:

Sobrinho v Impressa Publishing, heard 7 to 9 December 2015 (Dingemans J).

Lokhova v Tymula, heard 14 and 15 December 2015 (Dingemans J).

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


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