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.
The decision of Mr Justice Tugendhat to order trial by judge alone was an Inforrm exclusive and we also were first with the news of the application for permission to appeal. The appeal is discussed by Frances Gibb in the Times. The case is also discussed by Katy Dowell in the Lawyer. The Press Gazette highlights the fact that the costs of the action are already estimated to be in excess of £3 million.
The libel reform proposals in Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill have continued to be the subject of press discussion this week. Unfortunately, the quality of this discussion has not been uniformly high. We have already commented on the unfortunate tendency of libel reform campaigners to concentrate on ad hominen arguments against their opponents. In an interview with the Press Gazette, Simon Singh suggests that the “Libel bill would bring us into line with rest of world” – although it is difficult to see what practical points he has in mind. However, William Bennett’s thoughtful piece on this blog was picked up by Journalism.co.uk and we also draw attention to Sarah Webb’s piece in the Lawyer. The Economist has a piece entitled “Improving a reputation England’s strict libel laws face a shake-up”. There is a round up of the debate on the UK Human Rights Blog.
The journalistic practices of the News of the World have, once again, been in the news this week. First, Edward Terry (father of former England captain John Terry) – who pleaded guilty to supplying cocaine to an undercover News of the World reporter – was given a suspended sentence because, the judge said,
“The facts in this case are highly unusual. In fact the offence was actually created by the actions of the newspaper sending a journalist to set you up. It is clearly an entrapment case and the only reason they did this was to create a story because of your connections to a well known footballer.”
The “News of the World” hit back, describing it as a “disgracefully lenient sentence” by saying it was “a green light to dealers”. But the fact remains that the paper has been heavily criticised by a judge who has heard the evidence about what happened. There must be a case to answer. Roy Greenslade posed two questions for the PCC’s commissioners.
“Are you collectively happy that Britain’s highest-selling national paper has been criticised by a judge for entrapping a man “solely to create a newspaper story”?
If your answer is yes, then you might as well pack your bags. If the answer is no, then what do you propose to do about it?”
However, on the “Lord Triesman story” (see our post here), the “News of the World” took the moral high ground. According to Managing Editor Bill Akass his paper turned down the Lord Triesman story. He told the Radio 4 “Media Show”
“We in fact had that story and we decided not to run it. We were not satisfied that it was justified and we felt the information was thin.
“It did not meet the tests which we set ourselves for justification…Is it in the public interest? Are we operating within the law? Are we operating within the PCC code? Do we have credible information to suggest that this person is already engaged in these activities?”
The Angry Mob blog has a characteristically pithy take on these stories.
A solicitor from the North East, Scott Eason, has settled his claim against the “Solicitors from Hell” website. Under the terms of the settlement order Mr Eason agreed to drop his claim for damages and costs if the operator of the site, Rick Kordowski removed allegations against Mr Eason from the internet; undertook never again to publish allegations referring to Mr Eason or his firm. The case is also discussed in the Lawyer which has some interesting reader’s comments on the case.
In the Courts
The Court of Appeal handed down judgment in the case of Ajinomoto Sweeteners Europe SAS v Asda Stores Ltd  EWCA Civ 609, overturning Mr Justice Tugendhat at first instance ( EWHC 1717 (QB)) and holding that the single meaning rule does not apply in malicious falsehood cases. We have done a post on this case and there is a characteristically entertaining post on the IPKat blog. There is also a 5RB case report.
From the Blogs
The new “Strasbourg Observers” blog has a post entitled “Political Speech under threat” discussing the Court of Human Rights’ case of Fleury v France .
The Cearta.ie blog has a piece entitled “Irish Times goes to Strasbourg” concerning an application to the European Court of Human Rights by the “Irish Times” in relation to the award of costs against it by the Supreme Court despite it winning its case against the Mahon tribunal in last year’s the source disclosure case (Mahon Tribunal v Keena (No 2)  IESC 78).
US Law and Media News
This will be the subject of a separate post this week.
Media Cases from Other Jurisdictions
There has been one Article 10 case in the European Court of Human Rights this week. In Suarez v Spain (Judgment of 1 June 2010)(available only in French) the court held that the conviction of the author of a newspaper article suggesting that the King of Morocco was involved in drug smuggling was a breach of Article 10. There is a press release in English. The judgment has a curious dissent by the Slovenian, Judge Zupančič, which reads (in full)
“Je regrette ne pouvoir souscrire à la conclusion adoptée par la majorité de la chambre selon laquelle il y a eu violation du droit à la liberté d’expression du requérant, au sens de l’article 10 de la Convention“.
In the High Court in Dublin a serial rapist applied for an injunction preventing a number of newspapers publishing his address and pictures of him pending the outcome of his full court challenge to their actions. His counsel Paul O’Higgins SC argued that while the papers had argued the publicity was in the public interest to prevent him re-offending, it had to be asked was the public interest better served by allowing him to have a home and build a life. The Irish Times reported his submissions as follows:
“The balance of convenience favoured granting the injunction because while it was possible to postpone freedom of expression, it was not possible to “unscramble the egg” in relation to a person’s privacy, counsel said. This was not an attempt to interfere with freedom of expression because the press could say what they liked about Mr Murray, this was about the use of the address and photo and the way it was used, counsel added”.
In Canada Ian Halperin, the author of an unauthorized biography about the founder of the Cirque du Soleil Guy Laliberté has launched a Can$500,000 defamation lawsuit against the Montreal-based billionaire. Mr Laliberté described the book as “a piece of crap” and full of lies. In subsequent interviews, he described Halperin and his lawyers as “crooks.”
No public events have been brought to our attention for the forthcoming week.
Next Week in the Courts
It is expected that the Court of Appeal will hear the claimant’s appeal in the case of Fiddes v Channel Four (see our post here).
The following reserved judgments in media cases remain outstanding:
Imerman v Tchenguiz (and linked appeals), heard 10 to 11 May 2010 (Master of the Rolls, Moses and Munby LJJ)
British Broadcasting Corporation v Sugar, heard 17 May 2010 (Master of the Rolls, Moses and Munby LJJ)
Khader v Aziz and Davenport Lyons, heard 19 May 2010 (Sir Anthony May P, Carnwath and Moore-Bick LJJ)
Flood v Times Newspapers Limited, heard 25 and 26 May 2010 (Master of the Rolls and Moore-Bick and Moses LJJ)
Thornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd heard 26 May 2010 (Tugendhat J)