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.
The leading media law story in the tabloids this week, unusually, concerns a libel action in a foreign jurisdiction. In a front page splash, the News of the World reports “David Beckham’s $25 million vice girl writ”. The claim concerns false allegations made by a Ms Irma Nici and published in “In Touch” magazine – a publication which is not available either in paper form or online in the United Kingdom.
The “News of the World” helpfully gives us a run down on the contents of the claim, telling us that it is a “21-page document”, lodged with the Los Angeles Superior Court, accusing the magazine’s publisher Bauer and editor Michelle Lee of libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It quotes the following
“The case arises from defendants’ publication of lies to make money for themselves and to embarrass and inflict emotional distress upon Beckham, a world-famous athlete. Defendants published these statements with actual malice and with intent to profit by causing harm to Beckham.”
The value of the claim appears to have increased five fold since Friday’s story in the “Sun” “Becks slaps slapper with £5 million writ”.
The story has been picked up worldwide although the Guardian confined itself to reporting David Beckham’s original statement refuting the allegations. David Beckham’s publicist Jeff Raymond is reported as confirming that an “an international legal assault” is planned with more claims in other jurisdictions including Germany, where Bauer’s parent company is located. There do not appear to have been any publication of the allegations in the UK, with the tabloids going out of their way to emphasise the false nature of the allegations.
Trust in British journalism in general and the red tops in particular appears to have reached an all time low. Tabloid Watch has a post on Trust in the media, highlighting the results of a new survey on public trust. In relation to “Journalists on ‘red-top tabloid’ newspapers” the figures are “trust” 10% (14% in 2003) and “not much/no trust”: 83%.
In a post entitled Blink and you’ll miss it” Tabloid watch draws attention to the press coverage of the “Muslim plot to kill the Pope” – front page news when arrests were made, and a small sentence on page 9 when they were released without charge. It follows this up with the suggestion that the PCC should act.
It is reported in the Press Gazette that Wayne Rooney is suing the “Daily Mirror” over sex stories that appeared the week after the stories about him and a prostitute in the “Sunday Mirror” and the “News of the World”. It appears that no claims have been issued in relation to these original stories.
And finally, further news of Mark Stephens. We read that this week he has been speaking to a Joint Select Committee of the Jamaican Parliament warning them of the problems with their libel laws. He urged them to bring their laws into line with America so that judgments could still be enforced after the SPEECH act.
In the Courts
The “Twitter joke” case of Paul Chambers was heard by the Doncaster Crown Court on Friday 24 September 2010. Unusually for such cases, judgment was reserved by the Judge and two magistrates who heard the appeal. There are reports of the hearing in the “Guardian and in the “Daily Telegraph”.
Media and Freedom of Expression Law in Other Jurisdictions
In the Western Australia case of Edward Brewer Homes Pty Ltd v Home Builders Australia  WASC 257 the defendant sought to strike out the claim on the basis that the plaintiff was a corporation and did not, therefore, have a cause of action under section 9 of the Defamation Act 2005. The plaintiff contended it was an “excluded corporation”. The judge held that it was incumbent upon it to plead the facts and matters that showed that it fell within that category.
In Buckley v The Herald & Weekly Times Pty Ltd & Anor (No 5)  VSC 413 the High Court of Victoria considered an application for third party discovery in a long running libel case.
And in Russia, the Moscow Times reports that the Supreme Court has said that Courts should not award “ruinous” compensation in libel suits against media and politicians because it impedes freedom of speech.
From the Blogs
The Angry Mob blog has a post about “First pictures and other intrusions into death” in the “Daily Mail” commenting on the scramble for “first pictures” of those who die in newsworthy ways. The blog comments that there does not
“seem to be any justification for the scramble for the ‘first picture’ or the publicity given to such stories. It’s just intrusion into death, it isn’t news and the sensationalist, shallow and quick turnover that such reporting represents teaches us nothing about death or life. It only teaches us that tabloid newspapers will do anything to shift a few extra copies“.
Judith Townend has produced a podcast on her new Meeja Law website in which she talks to bloggers, journalists and a lawyer about fighting legal battles online. She also has a post on the Kaschke v Osler case under the headline “Legal Battle ends for blogger Dave Osler“.
The “PCC Watch” blog has a post on the motion passed at last week’s Lib Dem conference under the headline “PCC Reform – a Lib Dem view”
US Law and Media News
Once again, this will be the subject of a separate post.
No events have been reported to us for next week.
Next Week in the Courts
We are not of aware of any media cases in the courts next week.
The following reserved judgments remain outstanding:
Clift v Slough BC heard 23 and 24 June 2010 (Ward, Thomas and Richards LJJ).
Hamptons International Dubai LLC & anr v Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors heard 23 July 2010 (Eady J)
Spiller v Joseph heard 26 and 27 July 2010 (Lords Phillips, Rodger, Walker and Brown and Sir John Dyson)
BBC v HarperCollins, heard 31 August and 1 September 2010 (Morgan J)