Law and Media Round Up – 6 June 2016 [Updated]

6 06 2016

weekly-news-roundup4This week a former UKIP councillor was ordered to pay £40,000 in libel damages each to two labour MPs. Caven Vines had claimed MPs John Healey and Sir Kevin Barron had known about about the Rotherham child abuse scandal before it was exposed.

Mr Justice Warby said the “offensive and wrong” allegation had caused “real anger and distress”. In a statement, after judgment was handed down Healey and Barron said they were very pleased with the full vindication that the judgment gave them. “After 18 months we’re relieved at last this fight to defend our reputation is over,” they said.  We had a post about the decision.

Alexander Economou has been cleared of an allegation of criminal harassment of David de Freitas, the father of Eleanor de Freitas, the woman who accused him of rape in 2013. In his reserved judgment [pdf] District Judge Tan Ikran said that “I do not find that, taken as a whole, the defendant’s communications by email, or indeed the first delivered by courier, reach the threshold of oppressive and unreasonable.” Economou’s libel proceedings against de Freitas are due to be tried in the High Court next week.

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft have signed an EU hate speech code this week, which is particularly aimed at fighting racism and xenophobia across Europe. The code establishes “public commitments” for the companies, including the requirement to review the “majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech” in less than 24 hours, and to make it easier for law enforcement to notify the firms directly.

The companies downplayed the significance of the deal, saying it was a simple extension of what they already do. However, privacy advocates worry that this sets a dangerous precedent in terms of government intervention and that it anoints tech companies as guardians against offensive speech raises privacy concerns for users and concerns about the companies’ overzealous enforcement of the code.

Four people described as “sports stars” have become the latest celebrities to be named in American publications despite having injunctions in English courts. Among those revealed by a US publication are a Premier League footballer and manager.

In Family Law Bethany Hardwick has explored the question of whether financial remedy claims should be heard in public or private.

Social Media

Google has argued that a recent Supreme Court decision involving the online data broker Spokeo entitles them to prevail in a battle over email privacy. Google makes the argument in response to allegations that the company violates federal and state privacy laws by scanning emails in order to surround them with ads.

Damien Carrick in ABC has written that social media ‘continues to affect and disrupt the work of courts around the world.’ He cites several examples where posts on social media have effected the outcome of sentencing.

Data Protection and Data Privacy

Lexology looks at future-proofing privacy and the key point of the new EU regulation.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has said a data transfer pact between the EU and US needs “significant improvements”. The EDPS Giovanni Buttarelli has warned  that the Privacy Shield was “not robust enough”.

Surveillance and Information Gathering

Emails between MPs and their constituents have been regularly monitored by GCHQ and the NSA since 2014 despite The Wilson Doctrine, which protects MPs and their communications from all surveillance.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published a report assessing the human rights impact of the Investigatory Powers Bill which gives it cautious approval.

The report has also called for the government to make changes to ensure that journalist’s sources are protected. In the committee’s view, the draft bill provides less protection for journalists’ sources than the current law in PACE and the Terrorism Act.

Statements in Open Court and Apologies

There were no statements in open court this week.

Newspapers Journalism and Regulation

In the Guardian Roy Greenslade has commented on Jeff Jarvis’ essay ‘Death to the Mass’. He does not think that Jarvis has adequately dealt with the question of funding for the media, and ‘how will we fund journalists in a world dominated by Google and Facebook?’

A tumble-dryer manufacturer whose faulty machines have been linked to fatal house fires complained to press regulator IPSO about a Daily Mirror story saying it would take four years to complete its repairs backlog. Whirlpool said that they could have all the potentially deadly machines fixed in three years.

An Internet Trends Report has given a bleak view of the future of traditional media, because of the one-way migration in ad revenue away from ‘legacy’ media to online ‘platforms’.

Last week in the Courts

Last week was the legal vacation.

As already mentioned, on 2 June 2016, Warby J handed down judgment in the case of Barron v Vines ([2016] EWHC 1226 (QB)).

On 26 May 2016, the Single Judge refused permission to appeal in Stocker v Stocker.

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 Harb v Trustees of the Christian Brothers trading as St Patrick’s College Strathfield [2016] NSWDC 90 Gibson DCJ considered the imputations which could be borne by the following words spoken by a headmaster “I have made changes to the College executive. I now have eleven disciples and I have managed to get rid of Judas.”  The plaintiff was the member of the executive who had been dismissed and complained that the words were defamatory.  The judge struck out a number of imputations but permitted the pleading of the following meaning “the plaintiff is a traitor in that he betrays his friends and colleagues”.

Broadcaster Alan Jones has mounted a high-risk defence of a $2.5m defamation lawsuit by one of Queensland’s wealthiest families, claiming he can prove they were responsible for the flood deaths of 12 people.

Canada

In the case of J.K. v. The Korea Times & Hankookilbo Ltd. (The Korea Times Daily), 2016 ONCA 375 the Court of Appeal of Ontario allowed the plaintiff’s appeal against an order dismissing the claims for failing to give proper notice of the action.

A transparency report from Rogers Communications shows that government agencies are still able to obtain data on hundreds of thousands of people.

Wayne MacPhail has written an article for the Rabble about how the media gap has created a crisis in Canadian media.

Chile

President Michele Bachelet is suing weekly magazine Qué Pasa for defamation regarding a story published by the magazine about the Caval case, which relates to Bachelet’s daughter-in-law.

Malta

The courts have dismissed two libel suits claims against MaltaToday’s managing editor Saviour Balzan by Jesmond Bonello and his PR company, Content House Ltd. The court said that the recipients of public funds are ‘open to scrunity’ as Content House had  been engaged to perform work for a staggering number of government departments and parastatal entities.

New Zealand

Tracey Hewitt has written a column in the Marlborough Express about the ‘ins and outs of defamation law.’

Ireland

A leading Belfast libel lawyer, Paul Tweed of Johnsons solicitors, has said tech companies like Google and Facebook are increasingly exposed to legal action because their EU operations are based in Ireland.

Northern Ireland

In the case of Flanagan v AIG (Europe) Ltd [2016] NIQB 49 the High Court dismissed a claim by former Sinn Féin MLA, Phil Flanagan, against an insurance company in which he was seeking insurance cover for a libel award of almost £50,000 made against him. He has been sued over a tweet falsely implying Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott had shot people.

Turkey

The Turkish Constitutional Court has recently published a decision where it held that an employer monitoring an employee’s institutional email account and using correspondence in court did not violate the employee’s constitutional rights.

United States

Amber Heard has sued Johnny Depp’s friend Doug Stanhope over an article entitled “Johnny Depp is being blackmailed by Amber Heard”

Residents in Uniontown, Alabama, are locked in a legal battle against a company that has dumped millions of tons of coal ash there and then filed suit for defamation against those protesting against the act.

Research and Resources

Next Week in the Courts

We are not aware of any hearings in media and law cases next week.  [Update].  On 9 June 2016 there will be a PTR in the case of Begg v BBC before Jay J.

The following matters are listed for trial next term

Economou v De Freitas  13 June 2016, listed for 6-10 days

Ghuman & anr v Ghuman, 13 June 2016, listed 3-4 days

Callaghan v Express Newspapers 20 June 2016, listed for 4-5 days

Unnadkat v Patel & ors 4 July 2016, listed for 2-3 days

Begg v BBC 18 July 2016, listed for 5-6 days

We also note the renewed application for permission to appeal against the preliminary issue costs order in Theedom v Nourish Training which is listed for 17 June 2016.  The liability trial has been heard and judgment is awaited.

Judgments

The following reserved judgments in media law cases are outstanding:

CG v Facebook Ireland Limited, heard 4 and 5 April 2016 (Morgan LCJ, Gillen and Weatherup LJJ)(Northern Ireland Court of Appeal)

DMK v News Group Newspapers, heard 20 May 2016 (Warby J)  [Update]  An extempore judgment was given on this application so no judgment is outstanding.

Simpson v Mirror Group Newspapers, heard, 24 May 2016 (Laws, King and Lindblom LJJ).

Theedom v Nourish Training.  Heard 23 to 26 May 2016 (Warby J).

This week’s round up was compiled by Georgia Tomlinson who is a researcher.


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