Sir John Dyson has recently been appointed as the twelfth justice of the United Kingdom Supreme Court. When such appointments are made in the United States the judicial record of the appointee is subject to minute analysis over many months. However, the appointment of Sir John Dyson has attracted very little media coverage in the United Kingdom. There have been articles in the Times, the Lawyer and the Jewish Chronicle along with a profile on the UK Supreme Court Blog but no interviews, profiles or analyses of his decisions. The contrast with the US Supreme Court is startling – on the day that Justice Stevens retirement was announced there are already hundreds of articles about the possible replacements.
We thought it might be of interest to our readers to deal with the most important cases in which Sir John Dyson has dealt with freedom of expression or media law issues over his period of 8 years as a first instance judge and 9 years in the Court of Appeal. The cases are as follows:
R v BBC, ex parte Pro Life-Alliance  EWHC Admin 316 Dyson J dismissed application for judicial review of a decision not to broadcast a party political broadcast made by the Pro-Life Alliance.
A v B plc (the Flitcroft case)  QB 195 – Lord Woolf CJ gave the judgment of the court in this now notorious and discredited privacy case – Laws and Dyson LJJ were the other members of the Court.
Mark v Associated Newspapers Ltd  EMLR 38 – Simon Brown LJ gave the leading judgment, Mummery and Dyson LJJ agreed in this libel case in which the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal by the Blair’s former nanny against a judgment striking out her pleading meanings.
Greene v Associated Newspapers  QB 972. Brooke LJ gave the judgment of the Court in this case which confirmed that the rule in Bonnard v Perryman continued to apply after the Human Rights Act. May and Dyson LJJ were the other members of the court.
Connolly v DPP  EWHC 237 (Admin). Dyson LJ and Stanley Burnton J upheld a conviction under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 for sending pharmacists pictures of an aborted foetus. The restriction on her “freedom of expression” under Article 10 was justified because the images were grossly indecent and offensive. The restriction was for the protection of the rights of others.
Burstein v Associated Newspapers  EMLR 21. Keene LJ gave the leading judgment with which Waller and Dyson LJJ agreed. The Court entered summary judgment for the defendant on the basis that the defence of fair comment was bound to succeed.
HM Attorney General v British Broadcasting Corporation  EWCA Civ 280. Sir Anthony Clarke MR gave the leading judgment, with which Dyson and Thomas LJJ agreed in this successful appeal against injunctions relating to the reporting of the “Cash for Honours” inquiry. When Mr Havers QC for the government sought to exclude the press, Dyson LJ suggested that there should be reporting restrictions but reporters could not be excluded
GUR v Avrupa Newspaper Ltd  EWCA Civ 594, Dyson LJ gave the leading judgment in this case in which the Court dismissed an appeal on quantum in libel case. Buxton LJ gave a concurring judgment and Tuckey LJ agreed with both.
Malik v Manchester Crown Court  EWHC 1362 (Admin), Dyson LJ gave the judgment of the court (which included Pitchford and Ouseley JJ) it was held that the police were justified in demanding that freelance journalist Shiv Malik hand over source material for a book on terrorism, but the terms of the production order were too wide.
R (on the application of A) v B  EWCA Civ 24, the majority of the Court of Appeal (Laws and Dyson LLJ, Rix LJ dissenting) held that the High Court did not have jurisdiction to hear an Article 10 challenge by a former member of the security services to a refusal to permit the publication of a book. The majority held that the exclusive jurisdiction rested with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court ( UKSC 12).
These cases show that Sir John Dyson has had a broad exposure to media and freedom of expression issues during his judicial career. We are not sure that any “judicial philosophy” on freedom of expression issues can be discerned from the decisions to which he was a party but we will leave our readers to decide.
We would like to thank Mr Benjamin Pell for providing us with a list of cases for inclusion in this post.