Dame Janet Smith’s report into culture and practices at the BBC during the time that Jimmy Saville worked there was published this week. Chapter 8 of the report deals with “Media reports alleging that the BBC knew of Saville’s misconduct but had failed to act” [pdf]
The report criticises ‘unreliable’ press reports which gave the ‘misleading’ impression that the BBC knew about Saville’s crimes. She particularly criticised Richard Littlejohn at the Daily Mail who said that senior BBC employees “stand accused of being complicit in Savile’s crimes on Corporation premises”. The Press Gazette has a list of these ‘unreliable’ press reports.
Roy Greenslade discusses in the Guardian how the press attacked Dame Janet for failing to hold senior corporation managers to account and questions the wisdom of sacking Tony Blackburn. It is reported that Tony Blackburn himself is to launch a libel action against Tony Hall, the BBC director-general, after he accused him of lying to the Jimmy Saville sex abuse inquiry.
This week it was announced that Operation Elveden, the investigation into payments to public officials by journalists set up in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, has been closed by the Metropolitan police. On their website, the Met answered ‘frequently asked questions’ about the Operation. The Press Gazette covered the end of the Operation and included comments by Gavin Millar QC who said that Operation Elveden was right to pursue public officials for misconduct, but the prosecution of journalists “crossed a fault line”. The end of the Operation, along with a list of the public officials convicted, was also covered in the Guardian.
In a blog in the Press Gazette Dominic Ponsford criticised the Met for signalling the end of Operation Eleven with a ‘glib infographic’ as he describes the Operation as a ‘five-year witch hunt against journalists and their sources.’ Roy Greenslade also described Operation Eleven as a ‘sad and sorry tale’ in the Guardian.
This week Mazher Mahmood, the undercover reporter known as the ‘Fake Sheikh’, plead not guilty to the charge of conspiring the pervert the course of justice over the case of singer Tulisa Contostavlos.
Violinist Vanessa-Mae has been awarded damages for defamation from the International Ski Federation (FIS). The organisation has apologised and made an “appropriate payment” after it wrongly alleged that musician had qualified for the Sochi Olympics at fixed races.
Roy Greenslade has reviewed ‘Celebrity and royal privacy: the media and the law’ by Robin-Callender Smith in the Guardian, calling it ‘an invaluable textbook lawyers and journalists’.
Finally, in this section would we mention two items of news of interest to media lawyers:
- Kim Janes, senior clerk at 5RB for the last 25 years, has retired.
- David Price, solicitor QC at David Price Solicitors and Advocates, is taking a sabbatical from 7 March and his firm is not taking on any new cases.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
The ICO has launched its Corporate Plan for 2016-19, setting out a three year rolling plan on how we intend to achieve our objectives. The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham’s introduction to the plan is here.
Leonie Power’s blog on the Field Fisher website, which details the differences relating to the transfer of personal data between the GDPR and the “Directive.”
The Hunton and Williams privacy and information security law blog reported that the Court of Justice of the European Union heard arguments referred to by the German Federal Court of Justice regarding whether IP Addresses are personal data.
Hawktalk has a blog saying that whether the UK votes “in” or “out” in the EU referendum, it must implement GDPR.
A new German law, which grants authority to the country’s consumer and business associations to enforce compliance with data protection laws has come into force.
Shear on Social Media Law has hailed President Obama signing the Judicial Redress Act as a positive development.
Surveillance and Information Gathering
This week there have been more responses to Apple’s battle with the Department of Justice over whether the maker of the iPhone should write code to help the Department of Justice hack into the San Bernadino shooter’s phone.
- Privacy Europe has included a list of the various positions on the debate.
- Info/Law places the fight in the wider context of the encryption/escrow debate.
- The Simple Justice Criminal Defence blog looks at in the context of privacy and surveillance.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court this week.
Newspapers Journalism and Regulation
Sir Joseph Pilling, a former civil servant, is to review the independence and effectiveness of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso). Pilling will be assisted by a barrister, Zoe Gannon, from 11KBW. The aim is to complete the review within six months.
IPSO has this week censured the Daily Record for a double breach of the Editors’ Code. A man had complained to Ipso about newspaper coverage of a trial in which a woman was acquitted of sexually assaulting him. Ipso upheld the man’s complaints about him being identified and about the article being an intrusion into his privacy. However, it rejected his complaint about three other Scottish papers because they did not name him. Roy Greenslade in the Guardian agreed with Ipso’s finding, but had some sympathy with the Record.
The Times in Scotland was also censured by Ipso in the same case, and ordered to publish the adjudication.
Roy Greenslade in the Guardian also criticised the press and politicians for leaving voters in a ‘factual fog’ over the upcoming EU referendum.
Last week in the Courts
On 22 February 2016, Ouseley J heard an application in the case of Ibru v News Group Newspapers. He imposed an extended civil restraint order on Ms Ibru who had issued 24 libel claims between December 2014 and May 2015 complaining about the way the conviction for stalking Rio Ferdinand was reported and the use of the words “stalker” or “stalking”.
On 23 February 2016 the assessment of damages in the UKIP libel case of Barron v Vines, was adjourned because the judge, Sir Michael Tugendhat, recused himself.
On 25 February 2016 the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in the case of Re W (Children)  EWCA Civ 113. The case concerned the reporting of hearings in private involving children. There was a post about the decision on the Panopticon Blog.
The judgment in Anglia Research v Finders Genealogists  EWHC 297 (QB), handed down on 17 February 2016 was put on Bailii. There was a 5RB news story and a case comment. The Daily Telegraph had a news story about the case.
Finally, the indefatigable Kamran Malik (see our post here) has lodged a number of new applications for permission to appeal in the Court of Appeal, including in the case of Malik v Trump.
2 March 2016, 11 KBW Information Law Conference 2016, Royal College of Surgeons, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PE
2 March 2016 Oxford Media Convention, Said Business School, University of Oxford, Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1 HP.
8 March 2016 Seminar on Surveillance and Human Rights, Senate House, Information Law & Policy Centre.
16 March 2016 Seminar: Openness in Britain 2016 – Where are we now?, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Information Law & Policy Centre.
Please let us know if there are any events you would like to be included on this list by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
In the case of Danwer v Nine Network Australia ( NSWSC 95) Button J dismissed an application for an interlocutory injunction to restrain the broadcast of a current affairs programme.
In Hoffman v Challis  NSWSC 142 made various rulings on imputations pleaded by the plaintiff.
West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle is suing Fairfax media for damages in the New South Wales Supreme Court, after they published a series of articles in early January claiming that he had indecently exposed himself to a woman during Sydney training session at last year’s World Cup.
The Turnbull government has approved sweeping changes to Australia’s media ownership laws, paving the way for mergers and acquisitions.
In the case of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation v Whatcott (2016 SKCA 17) the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan reduced a damages award of Can$30,000 to anti-gay campaigner to Can$1,000. The Court ruled that Mr Whatcott had failed to provide proof of actual malice on the part of the CBC, and that Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Richard Elson had made inferences based on “scant evidence.”
A Waterloo, Ontario lawyer’s decision to launch a defamation claim against a former client who complained about him to the law society constituted a professional misconduct, according to the regulator.
The Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp has filed a defamation claim against a critic who alleged the they sold fish that are not being inspected by government agents and could endanger human health.
A former premier and cabinet minister are being sued for defamation by a blogger over comments made on open line radio in 2011. Brad Cabana, who is representing himself, questioned Kathy Dunderdale and Terry French. He is seeking $5 million in damages.
A senior Liberal strategist testified in a defamation trial at the British Colombia Supreme Court about why the part dumped former West Vancouver MP Blair Wilson as a candidate.
The Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court’s recent decision to strike down laws providing for criminal penalties for defamation has been hailed as a step forward in the fight to eliminate criminal defamation laws in the Americas by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Malaysia blocked access to a widely read news portal on Thursday, the latest in a series of clampdowns on media organizations that have published reports critical of the government and Prime Minister Najib Razak, violating media law.
The Court of Appeal has confirmed a judgement in the libel case filed by Richard Cachia Caruana, former permanent representative to the EU against Joe Grima, a former Labour Minister.
The Open Government partnership report, written by barrister Stephen Price, is available here.
Comedian Bill Cosby has dropped his defamation lawsuit against Beverly Johnson who accused Mr Cosby of drugging her coffee and sexually assaulting her in the 1980s.
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has pledged to curb press freedom through opening up libel laws to punish publication of ‘purposefully negative stories.’
Research and Resources
- MsLods, Law+tech news round up, 26 February 2016
- MLDI 2015 Annual Review.
- Access of Evil? Legislating Online Youth Privacy in the Information Age 12 Canadian Journal of Law and Technology 141, Agathon Fric, Dalhousie University – Schulich School of Law.
- A Historical Analysis of the Development of Free Speech Justifications The Journal Jurisprudence, Vol. 28 (2015), 487-506, Twana A. Hassan, University of Queensland, T.C. Beirne School of Law, Students.
- Critiques of the Pursuit of Truth as a Justificatory Theory of Free Speech, Int. J. Human Rights and Constitutional Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp.171-180, 2015, Twana A. Hassan, University of Queensland, T.C. Beirne School of Law, Students
Next Week in the Courts
On Monday 29 February 2016 the trial in Stocker v Stocker will begin before Mitting J. The trial is listed for 7 days (for the background, see the interim decision last summer  EWHC 1634 (QB)).
On Tuesday 1 March 2016 the trial in the “Operation Elveden” case of Axon v Ministry of Defence will begin before Nicol J. The trial is listed for 5 days.
The following reserved judgment in a media law cases is outstanding:
Monks v National Westminster Bank plc heard 28 and 29 January 2016 (Sir David Eady).