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 are interested in publicising.
The biggest news of the week is undoubtedly Simon Singh’s victory in his high profile libel dispute with the British Chiropractic Association. We have already commented on the decison of the Court of Appeal. There has been substantial coverage of this case in both the press and on the blogosphere. We will deal with this in a separate post.
As we reported last week, 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 Commons. However, contrary to our predictions, the Statutory Instrument was not approved by the House of Commons First Delegated Legislation Committee. We have already blogged about this here. Jack Straw has subsequently stated that he is “hopeful” that the legislation would be saved in a vote next Tuesday.
We have previously discussed the fact the media were given permission to intervene in the Max Mosley case against the United Kingdom. It has been reported in the Guardian that these submissions have now been lodged. It is reported that an “Opinion” by Mr Geoffrey Robertson QC
“calls on the court to narrow its definition of privacy so it cannot be used to suppress investigative journalism on subjects of public interest. He said views on sexual morality inevitably vary from country to country”.
This is an interesting argument which we would like to discuss further. Unfortunately, a copy of the media intervention does not appear to have been made publicly available. We would be delighted to post a copy if a reader would like to forward one to us.
The PCC’s adjudication against the Spectator concerning a comment on Rod Liddle’s blog has given rise to some interesting discussions. Roy Greenslade discusses on his blog whether this is a constraint on freedom of the press. His answer is
“it is, of course, a constraint. But with freedom comes responsibility and it is surely irresponsible to present an opinion as a fact.
British journalists need policing because our track record, compared to that of our colleagues across the Atlantic, is pretty poor. US papers may be dull but the staffs do try to be factually accurate. And when they are not, they make a fuss about correcting errors and apologising”.
The Press Gazette reports that the “Guardian” has commenced legal proceedings to request access to documents relating to the extradition case of a British lawyer who is facing the prospect of up to 55 years in jail in the US. The Guardian’s story is here. The Guardian is arguing that as in civil trials, all documents referred to in court must be made public.
The possibility of libel reform in the United Kingdom is discussed on the First Amendment Coalition blog – not surprisingly, the proposals are welcomed.
In India, on 2 and 3 April 2010, there was a two day national conference on ‘media and law’. The conference dealt with “suppressive measures of the Government infringing on the freedom of press, harassment of scribes by security forces as well as on legislations concerning official secrets act, parliamentary privilege, sting operation, obscenity etc” In his opening address retired Delhi High Court Judge, A P Shah, said the law was being misused to harass the media (see a news report here)
Thank you to MediaPal@LSE for drawing attention to Inforrm’s Blog. After a gap of nearly two months, this blog has now become active again with excellent posts on, among other things, the Simon Singh case and cheque book journalism. This week we also draw attention to a couple of blogs which feature on our “Blogroll” but may not be widely read by lawyers: Tabloid Watch – a consistently excellent and thought-provoking analysis of bad journalism in British tabloids and The Sun – Tabloid lies – which (correctly) describes itself as “Analysing and exposing the many deceptions of The Sun newspaper”. Both are well worth reading.
No events over the forthcoming week have been drawn to our attention.
In the Courts
There was an offer of amends assessment hearing in the case of Bowman v MGN. The actor Simon Bowman received an apology in January 2010 from Mirror Group newspapers following the publication of the false allegation that he and Hannah Waterman were in a romantic relationship. This was the first newspaper offer of amends assessment case since May 2005.
The judgment on the “meaning application” in Miller v Associated Newspapers  EWHC 700 (QB) was given on 31 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.
We have already mentioned the Court of Appeal judgment in the case of British Chiropractic Association v Singh ( EWCA Civ 350). As mentioned above, we have posted a comment on this judgment. There is also a 5RB case report here.
The Court of Appeal also gave judgment in the case of A v Independent News and Media ( EWCA Civ 343). In this important decision on media access to court it was held that designated representatives of the media could attend a hearing in the Court of Protection, and thereafter to apply to the judge for his authorisation to enable them to publish information disclosed in the proceedings. The decision was welcomed by the “Independent” as a “hugely important victory for the vulnerable” and is discussed on the Journalism.co.uk website.
Sedley LJ adjourned the application for permission in the case of Thornton v Telegraph Group ( EWHC 2863 (QB)), suggesting that a strike out application might be appropriate.
The Court of Human Rights has given an important judgment in the Article 8 “right to reputation” case of Petronco v Moldova Judgment of 30 March 2010. This will be the subject of a separate post.
We also draw attention to the following decisions in other jurisdictions:
Crookes v Newton, 1 April 2010 – the Supreme Court of Canada gave the the plaintiff permission to appeal against a decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal (2009 BCCA 392) in which it was held that someone who posts a link to a defamatory publication is not liable in defamation. This gives rise to interesting issues which will be dealt with in a separate post.
The following reserved High Court judgment in a media case remains outstanding:
Dee v Telegraph Media Group Ltd, heard 24-25 February 2010