In this regular feature we draw attention to the last week’s law and media news and next week’s upcoming events. If readers have any news or events which they would like to draw attention to please add them by way of comments on this post. We are particularly interested in forthcoming events which readers might like to attend.
This has been a busy week for “libel reform”. The report of the Libel Working Group was published and Minister of Justice, Jack Straw, told the House of Commons that the government were going to bring forward libel reforms. These were modest, and surprisingly sensible. The Minister of Justice, Jack Straw, We blogged about these earlier in the week. The Government’s proposals were welcomed by the media – a “Times” editorial thundering about lack of equality before the law with “wealthy claimants” apparently “using their resources to prevent publication” – but with no mention of wealthy media organisations using their resources to discourage claims.
The Statutory Instrument which the Ministry of Justice has asked Parliament to approve in order to reduce maximum success fees to 10% was debated by the House of Lords on 25 March 2010. The debate which can be found online here (and on the Parliamentlive.tv channel from 17.28). After an interesting debate during which Lords Martin, Scott and Woolf spoke against the order, it was agreed without a division and now goes to the House of Commons where it is likely to pass next week. The debate was reported in the Press Gazette.
The evidential basis of the order is obscure. In a letter to the House of Lords Merits Committee – appended to its report – Professor Moorhead of Cardiff University who had been commissioned by the Government to look at the feasibility of research into the area said that he was aware of no objective evidence base from which the Government could draw its calculations for the 10% fee”. We understand that although the analysis on this blog of defamation cases over the past 5 years was drawn to the attention of the Government it nevertheless continue to rely on the Media Lawyers Association analysis of 2008 figures.
The Media Society event on 11 March 2010, “Lawyers and Journos – bedfellows or enemies?” is now available on video – it was obviously an entertaining evening.
Meanwhile, in Ireland the Government are proposing a referendum on removing the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution. Energetic blogger Eoin O’Dell (of Cearta.ie) has argued in the Irish Times and a blogpost that the opportunity should be used to revised the “free speech clause” in the Constitution.
We missed the POLIS seminar on Ethical Challenges for news and social media in last week’s events – it is reported on Charlie Beckett’s blog.
There are a couple of privacy damages awards from round the world. First, it has been reported that Amanda Knox (aka Foxy Knoxy), currently serving a prison sentence for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, has won €40,000 damages from an Italian court after suing the author of a book for invading her privacy and revealing details of her sex life. Second, the US Social Networking Site “Classmates.com” has just settled a privacy claim for US$9.5 million but is now facing further action in relation to alleged disclosures of private information
Twitter won an award at the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards dinner this week. It is now The Media Law Prof Blog mentions an article by Leslie Garfield “Birds of a Feather: Libel and Slander in the Age of Twitter”.
There is an interesting controversy in the US after the Cleveland Plain Dealer revealed the fact that the an anonymous poster had the same e-mail address as Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold. A closer look revealed that the user had offered opinions on three of Saffold’s cases, including the capital murder trial of accused serial killer. The postings, under the alia “lawmiss”, were later claimed by the judge’s daughter. There is also this discussion on the Newsroom Law Blog. The question as to whether posters on websites should be allowed anonymity at all has been the subject of a twitter debate between editors.
Thank you to New Zealand media law blogger Steven Price for drawing attention to Inforrm’s Blog in his excellent “Media Law Journal” blog. His latest post is on “flag burning”, freedom of expression and the New Zealand criminal law
Last week’s judgments
The judgment in the strike out application in Budu v BBC  EWHC 616 (QB) was handed down on 23 March 2010. The claim was struck out.
The judgment on the “meaning application” in Lait v Evening Standard  EWHC 642 (QB) was given on 25 March 2010 – the pleaded meanings were struck out but the article was held to be capable of bearing a defamatory meaning. The 5RB case report is here.
The application for permission to appeal against Mr Justice Tugendhat’s decision on the specific disclosure application in the case of Fiddes v Channel 4 Television was dismissed by a three judge court (Pill, Smith and Wilson LJJ) on the basis that it was a “case management decision”. There is a Note of Judgment of Pill LJ.
We also draw attention to three recent judgments from Canada and Australia:
Noonan v McLennan  QCA 50 – an appeal concerning limitation in a libel action concerning an article critical of the plaintiff’s PhD thesis.
Perry v McIntosh  VSC 85 – a interim decision about particulars of pleadings in a libel action in Melbourne.
Takefman v Bier  QCCA 486 – a decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal concerning an injunction restraining the defendant from writing to the claimants and using the Internet to make comment about them.
Next Week’s Events and Forthcoming Judgments
The Frontline Club has a talk on 30 March 2010 with the title “Cabs for Hire: lobbying and MPs”.
Mr Justice Eady will hand down judgment in the meaning application in Miller v Associated Newspapers on Wednesday 31 March 2010.
Sedley LJ will hear a renewed application for permission in the case of Thornton v Telegraph Group ( EWHC 2863 (QB)).
In the Courts
We mention the following reserved High Court judgments in media cases:
Buturina v Times Newspapers Ltd, heard 4-5 February 2010
Dee v Telegraph Media Group Ltd, heard 24-25 February 2010
The following Court of Appeal judgments are awaited:
British Chiropractic Association -v- Singh, heard 23 February 2010 (Judge LCJ, Neuberger MR, Sedley LJ)
Independent News and Media Limited v. DP (By his Litigation Friend The Official Solicitor), heard on 24 February 2010 (Judge LCJ, Neuberger MR and Potter P).