Media law cases in 2015: a short survey of the libel, privacy and data protection cases

2 01 2016

2015The number of media law cases noted by Inforrm in 2015 was similar to that in 2014, with perhaps four particularly noteworthy cases at first instance, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Our Table of Media Law cases records 87 judgments of the Courts in England and Wales in media law cases in 2015, with 91 having been recorded in 2014.

The four particularly noteworthy cases of the year were, in chronological order:

  • Vidal-Hall v Google ([2015] EWCA Civ 311) in which the Court of Appeal disapplied section 13(2) of the Data Protection Act 1998 so that claims can now be made for distress damages in data protection, without proof of financial loss. This has opened the way for group actions in data protection – claims which are likely to be an important area of litigation in 2016.  This decision was the subject of a popular Inforrm case comment.  The decision is subject to appeal to the Supreme Court, due to be heard in October 2016.
  • OPO v Rhodes ([2015] UKSC 32) in which the Supreme Court discharged an interim injunction restraining the publication of a book.  The Court clarified the tort of intentionally inflicting mental suffering, gave a powerful reminder of the importance of freedom of expression, provided important guidance on the form of injunctive relief and abolished imputations of an intention by operation of a rule of law. This case was the subject of two of our most popular posts of the year by Dan Tench (on the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court decisions).
  • Gulati v MGN ([2015] EWHC 1482 (Ch)) – in which, in a detailed and comprehensive judgment (upheld by the Court of Appeal in December [2015] EWCA Civ 1291) Mann J awarded damages totalling £1.2 million were awarded to 8 victims of phone hacking.  We had posts on the first instance and Court of Appeal
  • Lachaux v Independent Print [2015] EWHC 2242 (QB)) – the most important decision so far on the “serious harm” requirement under section 1 of the Defamation Act 2015, rejecting the submission that the law had not been substantially changed but accepting proof of serious harm by inference. We had an Inforrm case comment on this decision.  An application for permission to appeal is presently pending before the Court of Appeal.

Libel

There were seven judgments after full libel trials – all of them by judge alone.  Only one of those trials was against the mainstream media – and was won convincingly by newspaper. Overall the claimants were successful in 3 out of the 7 cases.

There were also four “damages only” libel trials:

In addition, there were six trials of preliminary issues in libel cases:

There were three libel judgments in the Court of Appeal:

There were no libel cases in the Supreme Court in 2015 but there was a “Reynolds” qualified privilege case in the Privy Council, Pinard-Byrne v Linton ([2015] UKPC 41).

Privacy

There were four interim privacy injunctions against the mainstream media in the calendar year (see the Inforrm post here)

In addition there were two privacy injunctions against individuals:

The only privacy trial this year was the damages only trial in Gulati v MGN (mentioned above).

In addition to Gulati there was one other privacy case in the Court of Appeal, the case of Weller v Associated Newspapers [2015] EWCA Civ 1176 (see the Inforrm case comment here),

Data Protection

We have already mentioned the Court of Appeal decision in Vidal-Hall v Google Inc.  The other important media data protection case of the year was Mosley v Google Inc ([2015] EWHC 59 (QB)).  The claimant was granted permission to serve Data Protection proceedings on Google out of the jurisdiction (see the Inforrm case comment) however the claim was subsequently settled.

Full details of all the media and law judgments in 2015 can be found in the Inforrm Table of Cases – which also includes links to the case comments on Inforrm and on the 5RB and One Brick Court websites.


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