This is a Media Law Update covering the last week prepared by the Legal Information Team at Matrix Chambers, which they have kindly agreed to make available to readers of Inforrm.
Gillberg v Sweden (App No. 41723/06), ECtHR – 2 Nov 2010, Professor’s criminal conviction for refusal to hand over research on hyperactive children was justified – ECHR, arts 8, 10. In relation to art 10, the Court accepted that some professional groups might have a legitimate interest in protecting professional secrecy as regards clients or sources.
However, the applicant had been convicted for misuse of office for refusing to make documents available in accordance with the instructions he received from the university administration; he was thus part of the university that had to comply with the judgments of the administrative courts. Moreover, his conviction did not as such concern the university’s or his own interest in protecting professional secrecy with clients or the participants in the research. That part had been settled by the administrative courts’ judgments, in relation to which the Court was prevented from examining any alleged violation of the Convention. The Press Release can be found here.
Innes v Information Commissioner QBD (Admin) – Kenneth Parker J, 1 Nov 2010. The appellant appealed against a decision of the Information Tribunal summarily dismissing his appeal against a decision of the Information Commissioner. The Tribunal disposed of the appeal under the Information Tribunal (Enforcement Appeals) Rules 2005, r 10. Held: it was apparent that the Tribunal had breached r 10(2) by failing to give the appellant adequate notification of its proposal to dispose summarily of his appeal to it. The communications from the Tribunal simply said that summary disposal of the appeal under r 10 was a possibility; it did not indicate what view the Tribunal had in the exercise of that discretion. Given that many appeals to the Tribunal would be made by lay persons it was important that such persons should be alerted that it was considering summary disposal of an appeal and they be provided with a specific opportunity to make representations on such a course of action. There was no clear indication made by the tribunal that the appellant could not only object to such a disposal but make written submissions to it. Accordingly it was clear that there was a real risk that the appellant had suffered prejudice and had been given an insufficient opportunity to make meaningful submissions to the tribunal on the course that it intended to take. The judgment is not yet avaiable.
Latest Regulatory Decisions
Latest decision of the First-tier Tribunal, General Regulatory Chamber [Information Rights]
Mr Ravin Soobadoo v Wanstead and Woodford Guardian, 2 November 2010. Mr Ravin Soobadoo complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined “Porn star teacher’s sadness at leaving job”, published on the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian website on 13 July 2010, incorrectly attributed a quotation to his fourteen year old daughter, and referred to her as a sixth form student, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. Complaint upheld
Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin
Legal Professional Privilege, James Goudie, Panopticon Blog – 29 Oct 2010, Discusses West v Information Commissioner EA/2010/0120, which considered the legal professional privilege exemption from disclosure (FOI Act 2000, s 42 and EIR 2004, reg 12).
Data Protection: Commission to refer Austria to Court for lack of independence of data protection authority, DG Justice, EUROPA – 29 Oct 2010. Notes that the Commission has referred Austria to the Court of Justice regarding the lack of an independent data protection authority. The Commission considers that provisions setting up the Austrian data protection authority do not conform to EU rules, which require Member States to establish a completely independent supervisory body to monitor the application of the 1995 Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC).
Is the PCC too focussed on public figures?, Matthew Cain, PCC Watch – 27 Oct 2010. An analysis by PCC Watch 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. Concludes that these figures highlight “the need for the PCC to have a clear mission statement and a set of key performance indicators which are applied consistently and reported on in the same format each year”.
“Three papers pay Baby P social worker damages“, PA Mediapoint, Press Gazette – 26 Oct 2010. Reports that Sylvia Henry, who is employed by the London Borough of Haringey as a social worker team manager, settled three separate libel actions at the High Court. The publishers of the three newspapers had agreed to compensate her for the harm caused by the articles. No figure for the level damages was disclosed in court.
Articles and Discussions
“Mean streets” Rod Dadak (Lewis Silkin), Solicitors Journal S.J. (2010) Vol.154 No.41 pg.7. Reports concerns about the potential infringement of celebrities’ privacy by the Justspotted.com website. Reviews case law on the circumstances in which celebrities are entitled to privacy.
“End of an era” Rebecca Cushing, New Law Journal N.L.J. (2010) Vol.160 No.7439 pg.1484. Discusses whether the super injunction has had its day, following the Queen’s Bench Division rulings in DFT v TFD  EWHC 2335 (QB), AMM v HXW  EWHC 2457 (QB) and Gray v UVW  EWHC 2367 (QB) in which anonymity orders, rather than super injunctions, were made. Suggests that an application for an anonymity order could prove more successful than one for a super injunction if the relevant criteria are met, providing a compromise between the need to keep the subject matter of an injunction and the parties’ identity secret, and the media’s interest in publishing newsworthy articles.
“Action woman” James Wilson, New Law Journal N.L.J. (2010) Vol.160 No.7439 pg.1500: Comments on the legacy of Naomi Campbell’s privacy action against the Daily Mirror, with the House of Lords judgment in Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd  UKHL 22 establishing the existence of a cause of action in respect of the “misuse of private information” and the principle that the ECHR, arts 8 and 10 were of equal weight and had to be balanced according to the facts of each case. Notes that the Mirror’s appeal to the European Court of Human Rights remains outstanding and the decision may appear before the end of 2010.