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 begin, once again, with privacy injunctions. Mr Justice Tugendhat granted one last week in the AMM case (considered by us here). This injunction was discussed in the Press Gazette. What appears to have been a privacy injunction was refused in Scotland (see our post here). We have already posted on the failed privacy injunction claims by Binyam Mohammed and Van Morrison England and Northern Ireland. Ruth Hickey’s claim for privacy damages was also unsuccessful in the High Court in Dublin.
One injunction which has not featured in the national media was one granted in the course of the General Election. There is a report in Portsmouth News about this injunction which was obtained by Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock against an opponent, Les Cummings of the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party, to restrain publication of allegations during the election (the original injunction was reported here). The MP did not pursue the matter after the election and on 8 October 2010 was ordered to pay some costs by Mr Justice Royce. Mr Hancock has issued a statement about the case.
The Wall Street Journal has an article discussing this area under the title “Stars boost use of UK Gag rules”. According to WSJ journalist Cassell Bryan-Low, in recent months:
“At least seven soccer players, television personalities and other high-profile figures have obtained privacy injunctions since July, according to court records and people familiar with the situation”
She goes on to suggest that the increase in cases has come “amid stiff competition between media outlets for salacious stories about stars“.
The “News of the World” phone hacking story does not appear to be going away. Last week it was the subject of a Channel 4 “Dispatches” programme “Tabloids, Tories and Telephone Hacking” and a debate at the City University with the title “How far should a reporter go? The lessons of the News of the World phone-hacking story“. We have posted on this debate which is also discussed on Martin Moore’s blog.
Information Commissioner has issued a detailed paper responding to the Ministry of Justice’s call for evidence on how well current UK data protection laws are working. The response is entitled “The Information Commissioner’s response to the Ministry of Justice’s call for evidence on the current data protection legislative framework [pdf]” was released on 6 October 2010 and contains views not just on the Data Protection Act 1998 but also the underlying EU Data Protection Directive. It is discussed on the “Tech and Law” blog.
The threatened libel action by Migration Watch against Sally Bercow is no more. Blogger Jack of Kent reports that Migration Watch has dropped the action.
The libel jury trial of Andre v Price did not, after all, begin in the High Court on Thursday 7 October 2010. The “News of the World’s” front page story about the case was removed on Monday and, on Friday, Mr Justice Tugendhat, considered an “application” in the case. This is listed again on Monday 11 October 2010 as being “Part heard”. We understand that a reporting restriction is now in force prohibiting the reporting of anything other than the bare fact that the trial is taking place until the jury has returned a verdict. The Daily Star reports that the couple want to “televise” the court battle – this story, attributed to unidentified “sources”, goes on to disclose the unsurprising fact that “court officials have made it absolutely clear that no filming will be allowed inside the court precincts”. The trial is likely to commence next week (see below under “Next Week in the Courts”).
According to the BBC Attorney-General Dominic Grieve told a “Libel Reform” at the Conservative Party conference that the coalition “will not shirk” from reforming the libel laws. Mr Grieve said changes were needed to reflect the globalised world, the rise of the internet and the growth of speculative no-win, no-fee claims. He told the meeting that Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill largely reflects ministers’ thinking.
Journalism and the PCC
In a piece in the Independent, “Secrets of the story hunters: Are investigative journalists so high-minded?” Ian Burrell discusses the current state of investigative journalism in England, suggesting that it is in decline. Journalist Paul Lashmar is quoted as suggested that the number of practitioners has fallen from around 150 during the Eighties to fewer than 90 today.
Speaking at a Media Society debate on Wednesday night, ‘Starsuckers’ director Chris Atkins called for better self-regulation among British newspapers and accused them of colluding to keep the public ignorant of media malpractice. His contribution is discussed on the Journalism.co.uk website.
The PCC Watch blog has an interesting post under the title “Why doesn’t the PCC make reference to legal cases?” which asks whether,
by not referring to legal cases, isn’t the PCC shooting itself in the foot? If a big part of its role is to raise standards in the press, doesn’t it look myopic if it doesn’t mention court rulings against newspapers?
The post goes on to mention the problem of the “Daily Star’s” continuing persistent breaches of the code (the subject of an earlier PCC Watch post). The same point is raised by Tabloid Watch in an analysis of the “Daily Star’s” Saturday front page under the headline “Star Thumbs its nose at the PCC”.
In the Courts
A number of libel, privacy and confidentiality judgments were given this week – the first full week of the legal term in England and Wales. They are listed on our “Table of Recent Cases” and in the right hand column of the blog.
The judgment in the case of BBC v HarperCollins, given on 4 October 2010 has attracted some press comment. It is discussed in a piece in the Guardian, on the 5RB website, on the UK Human Rights Blog and on the IPKat blog.
Media and Freedom of Expression Law in Other Jurisdictions
The Tasmanian case of Burch v Parkinson ( TASSC 42) concerned third party indemnity proceedings against the State of Tasmania. The defendant, a member of the legislative council, is being sued for libel and sought an indemnity from the the State. An application to strike out the indemnity claim was dismissed.
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.
From the Blogs
The Cearta.ie blog has a piece about Keith Burstein’s unsuccessful application to the Court of Human Rights. The Strasbourg Observers blog has a piece about freedom of expression in Turkey discussing the Dink case in which concerned a journalist who was convicted of “denigrating Turkish identity” (and was subsequently assassinated) and legislative changes in Turkey.
The Blog “IT Law in Ireland” has a post about the new “Google Transparency report”. This reveals that in the period January-June 2010 there were 1343 data requests, 48 removal requests, for a total of 232 items; and 62.5% of removal requests were fully or partially complied with.
Next Week in the Courts
Judgment will be given by Mr Justice Tugendhat on an application in the case of Taylor v Associated Newspapers on Monday 11 October 2010 at 10.00am. This is a libel action brought by Gordon Taylor which we understand is listed for trial at the end of November 2010.
According to the list there is a part heard application in Andre v Price before Mr Justice Tugendhat on Monday 11 October 2010. The jury trial in this case seems likely to commence on 12 October 2010. If does, it will be the first High Court libel jury trial in London since Desmond v Bower in July 2009. This gap of 446 days between libel jury trials seems to be the longest in English legal history (the trial in Bryce v Barber listed for 26 July 2010 having, in the event, been tried by a judge alone). Mr Benjamin Pell suggests that the previous record was 332 days (ending with the trial in Howlett v Holding on 23 May 2005).
The Grand Chamber Hearings in Von Hannover v Germany and Axel Springer v Germany will be heard on 13 October 2010. The Court of Human Rights’ has a press release about the case but the Statements of Facts and Issues are available only in French. Some details about this important case can be found in our “Table of Forthcoming Cases“.
The case of Thornton v Telegraph Group has been listed before Sedley LJ for argument on 14 October 2010 to deal with various issues, including costs.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Clift v Slough BC heard 23 and 24 June 2010 (Ward, Thomas and Richards LJJ).