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 high level of activity in the Courts in the early weeks of October appears to have abated. The first libel jury trial of the year has still not taken place. The next one in the list appears to be Ronaldo v Telegraph Media Group, due to begin on 8 November 2010 before Mrs Justice Sharp and a jury.
A judge alone libel trial is listed to begin on the same day but until then there appears to be a quiet fortnight in English media law. No privacy injunctions have been reported this week – although we cannot, of course, rule out the possibility that there has been a “super-injunction” forbidding the revelation of its own existence. The rules governing the operation of such orders still await the results of the deliberations of the Master of the Rolls’ committee which met for the first time in May 2010.
In an interview by Joshua Rozenberg on the BBC Radio 4 Law in Action programme, the Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke (available on BBC i-Player here and there is a transcript), he gave some indication of the government’s views on CFAs:
Sir Rupert Jackson, has come up with some very good recommendations which I find and the government finds very attractive. But they will involve perhaps a bit moving towards the American system whereby some of the costs are recovered out of the damages which are awarded.
The “Daily Mail’s” report of this, under the headline “ Clarke hits greedy solicitors as he scraps no win, no fee deals” is an interesting spin on the Justice Secretary’s comment.
The Tech and Law Blog draws attention to the fact that according to European Commission document obtained by Bloomberg’s Aoife White the proposed updates to the EU Data Protection Directive, which won’t be fully public till 2011, may include expanded criminal penalties to enforce data protection requirements regulating how personal data is dealt with and a “right to oblivion”. It is also said that he proposals will include enhanced enforcement capabilities for regulators and others.
New Zealand has instituted two separate investigations into whether its contempt of court laws are being affected by the internet. First there was a review by Tony Smith (of Arlidge, Eady and Smith and 5RB). Second there has been an announcement that the Law Commission will “to review the adequacy of regulations around how the Internet interacts with the justice system” The Media Law Journal blog comments on the apparent overlap. This is an issue which affects Courts across the world and the results of these investigations will be of general interest.
Three statements in open court were read out on 26 October 2010 in actions brought by Haringey Social Worker, Sylvia Henry against the Evening Standard, the Daily Mirror and the Independent arising out of reports relating to her involvement in the “Baby P” case. The statements are reported in the Press Gazette.
Journalism and the PCC
PCC Watch blog has a piece entitled “Is the PCC too focussed on public figures?” It refers to an analysis by PCC Watch which suggests that the PCC has been dealing with complaints from the general public in just 70% of cases in recent months.
“Of the 29 adjudicated cases in 2010, nine complaints were brought by public figures. And of the 42 resolved cases in October 2010, 12 were brought by public figures – about 30% of all cases. It is not always clear who is a public figure, so we’ve published our classification online”.
The Angry Mob blog draws attention to “another busy week for media disinformation on a range of their favourite topics” with a post on the Daily Mail, migration and “’elf n’ safety”
In the Courts
On 28 October 2010, the Court of Appeal (Maurice Kay and Lloyd LJJ and Sharp J) allowed the appeal of the defendant against the ruling of Mr Justice Tugendhat (determining the meaning of the words complained of) in the libel case of Cambridge v Makin. The parties had agreed a “revised meaning” shortly beforehand so there was no substantive hearing. Mr Benjamin Pell has drawn our attention to the fact that the Court Listing website inaccurately records the appeal as having been “refused”.
We are not aware of any other libel or privacy cases dealt with in the English Courts last week.
Media and Freedom of Expression Law in Other Jurisdictions
In Lassanah v State of New South Wales (No. 3)  NSWDC 241 The New South Wales considered a claim for false imprisonment and defamation. A carer had taken an intellectually disabled patient to visit a watch store, A store employee had pressed the hold-up button after they left the premises and police officers had stopped and searched the plaintiffs. The defendants, relied, inter alia on a defence of qualified privilege. Gibson DCJ found for the plaintiffs, awarding the first plaintiff (the carer) defamation damages of Aus$15,000 and false imprisonment damages in the same sum and the second plaintiff (the patient) defamation damages of Aus$20,000 and false imprisonment damages in the same sum.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports a libel settlement under the terms of which three National Rugby League disciplinary judges accepted a total of Aus$105,000 from Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy and former chief executive Brian Waldron, ending defamation proceedings stemming from a post-match press conference before the 2008 grand final.
It is reported that, in Singapore a defamation suit against president Freddie Koh Sin Chong of the Singapore Swimming Club (SSC) for allegedly casting aspersions on four former management committee members in 2008 was dismissed with costs on the grounds that the criticism was justified. Judith Prakash J held that Mr Koh had ‘justified the gist of the defamatory sting and is not liable to the plaintiffs for defamation’.
US Law and Media News
Once again, this will be the subject of a separate post.
In a post on her Meejalaw blog, Judith Townend mentions our post on “Blogging the Law” and then has an interesting discussion of the BBC’s report about a solicitor’s firm which says it has “taken forward six defamation actions involving Facebook in the last nine months.” (mentioned in last week’s Round Up), drawing attention to a number of critical Tweets about the article.
The Inforrm blog had over 28,000 page views in October – our busiest month yet. We had 47 posts in the month from half a dozen different contributors.
Next Week in the Courts
We are not aware of any media cases listed in this forthcoming week.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Clift v Slough BC heard 23 and 24 June 2010 (Ward, Thomas and Richards LJJ).
Spiller v Joseph heard 26 and 27 July 2010 (Lords Phillips, Rodger, Walker and Brown and Sir John Dyson).
McLaughlin & ors v London Borough of Lambeth, heard 19-21 October 2010 (Tugendhat J). [update] Judgment in this case will be given at 10.30am on 2 November 2010.
Bowker & anr v Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, heard 21 October 2010 (Sharp J).