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.

Latest Cases

McLaughlin & Ors v Lambeth London Borough Council & Anor [2010] EWHC 2726 (QB).  QBD – 2 Nov 2010.  Considers whether the rule in Derbyshire CC v Times Newspapers Ltd [1993] AC 534, which prevents public authorities from suing in libel – to allow uninhibited criticism of government institutions – has the effect of preventing libel actions being taken by individual managers and employees of those institutions.

This was a claim by the defendants to strike out a libel action on grounds of abuse of process.  It was held that, by its decision in Derbyshire, the House of Lords was contemplating that the right to sue of any individual who carried on the day to day management of the affairs of a governmental body was subject to no limitation other than the requirement that the words complained of should refer to, and be defamatory of, that individual. If that was the case, it would follow that the individual would always have a right to sue in defamation, provided that he could fund the litigation himself, or from someone other than the governmental body. Thus, the effect of Derbyshire was that everything turned on the choice of the right claimant, if there was an individual claimant, referred to and defamed. Apart from the uncertainty as to whether the Derbyshire principle applied at all to a claim by individuals, the meanings pleaded in the instant case were not so clearly confined in their impact to the claimants’ individual official activities so as to make it suitable for determining the issue of law as to the precise scope of the principle.  See Inforrm Blog Post.

Cairns v Modi [2010] EWHC 2859 (QB) QBD, 10 November 2010.   Libel action arising out of the publication of a Tweet.   The defendant issued an application to set aside, but subsequently his the forum coveniens challenge.  He maintained the no substantial tort challenge on the grounds that the claimant had failed to establish a sufficient number of readers of the Tweet in this jurisdiction. He sought a direction for the hearing of a preliminary issue of the extent of publication since this would go to 2 issues; whether there was a  substantial tort within the jurisdiction and the extent of damage.  The application was refused. See Inforrm Blog Post.

Statements in Open Court

Ronaldo v Telegraph Media Group Ltd. QBD – 8 Nov 2010.  Made in proceedings in respect of an article in July 2008 alleging that on Ronaldo’s arrival in Los Angeles, following an ankle operation, he had headed straight for a Hollywood nightclub where he put his crutches down and danced with four models before being served £10,000 worth of Cristal champagne.  For news story, please visit: Press Gazette Website.

Wyatt v Cartwright, QBD – 8 Nov 2010.  A statement made on the settlement of a libel action brought by a former senior hotel inspector from Somerset has accepted a public apology over a colleague’s claim that she had emailed him graphic hardcore pornography.  The defendant’s Counsel said that she wished to offer his sincere apologies to for publishing the allegations and for the hurt and distress that they have caused.  The statement is reported in the Southern Reporter.

Latest Regulatory Decisions

Latest decisions of the Scottish Information Commissioner:

Latest Decision Notices from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Latest decisions of the First-tier Tribunal, General Regulatory Chamber [Information Rights]

  • David Ferguson v IC & The Electoral Commission EA/2010/0085. FIO Act 2000, s 40(2) (personal data).
  • Guardian Newspapers Ltd v IC EA/2010/0070. FIO Act 2000, s 40 (personal data).

Adjudicated – Forest of Dean District Council v Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review. Press Complaints Commission Decision – 8 Nov 2010. Complaint alleging breach of clause 1 (accuracy) of the Code of Practice. For news story, please visit: Press Gazette Website

Recent Developments

Supreme Court to rule on BBC release of Balen report. PA Media Lawyer. Press Gazette – 5 Nov 2010. Notes that the Supreme Court has granted permission to allow Steven Sugar to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s refusal to overturn a first instance decision by Mr Justice Irwin that the Balen report – an internal report on the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East situation – was exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 because the corporation held it for “purposes of journalism, art or literature”.

Information Commissioner announces outcome of Google Street View investigation. Information Commissioner’s Office.  Press Release – 3 Nov 2010. Commissioner has concluded that there was a significant breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 when Google Street View cars collected payload data as part of their wi-fi mapping exercise in the UK. He has instructed Google UK to sign an undertaking in which the company commits to take action to ensure that breaches of this kind cannot happen again. An audit of Google UK’s Data Protection practices will also be undertaken. The Commissioner has rejected calls for a monetary penalty to be imposed but is well placed to take further regulatory action if the undertaking is not fully complied with.

Google and Facebook face new privacy code. Josh Halliday.  The Guardian – 3 Nov 2010.  Notes that individuals would be able to get redress against internet companies if they feel they have invaded their privacy, under a code of internet conduct being proposed by the culture minister, Ed Vaizey. The code would be an updated and more concise version of the code for privacy online which is used by the Information Commissioner’s Office.  For current code for privacy online, please download: ICO Code

Articles and Discussion

Electoral Commission’s investigation into unlawful political donations: personal and non-personal data, Robin Hopkins, Panopticon Blog – 4 Nov 2010,  Discusses Ferguson v IC and The Electoral Commission EA/2010/0085, “which is notable both for its commentary on the interaction between personal data and the inherent publicity of political life, and for a number of distinctions it draws between types of information which, at first glance, may appear to be personal.”

New Books:

Borrie & Lowe: Law of Contempt, 4th edition, Edited by Ian Cram.  For contents, see here.