Law and Media Round Up – 20 December 2010

20 12 2010

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.

News

The phone hacking scandal continues to dominate the legal media news agenda. Shortly after the DPP announced that that there insufficient evidence for charges, the Guardian,  the Independent and the Financial Times reported on the Sienna Miller action. 

The Press Gazette also reported that actor Steve Coogan has also issued proceedings against the News of the World and Glenn Mulcaire.  As we reported last week, Glenn Mulcaire has lodged his appeal against the decision of Mr Justice Mann ordering him to reveal whom he worked with at the News Of The World.

The settlement of the privacy claim by actor Matt Lucas against the Daily Mail was announced this week. It appears that the claim was at least in part a “false privacy” claim.  It was reported in the Press Gazette that Schillings his solicitors had issued a press release saying:

The article was particularly damaging as a result of the fact that it contained a number of untrue allegations, including the complete fabrications that Mr Lucas had ignored Mr McGee’s calls, had become a virtual recluse and was hosting a large birthday party to ‘move on’.”

Lucas said in a statement:

This has been and continues to be a very difficult time for me and all those who loved Kevin. My deep pain and sorrow have been made even greater by the intrusive and defamatory stories made about my private life in The Daily Mail.  I had no choice but to bring these proceedings to protect my private life and my right to grieve in peace. I’d like to add that I take no pleasure or sense of triumph in this settlement. I am just relieved that this case has been resolved and I sincerely hope this sort of intrusive reporting will now end.”

Although this was  privacy action one of the terms of settlement was publication of an apology published in the Mail which said:

“An article (March 1) ‘How Matt Lucas learned to laugh again’ caused great upset to Mr Lucas which we did not intend and regret.The article on Mr Lucas’ return to public life following the tragic death of Kevin McGee suggested he had ignored Kevin’s calls, became a virtual recluse, and hosted a birthday party to ‘move on’. We accept this was not the case and apologise to Mr Lucas.”

The Independent has last week  apologized after including the the wrong photograph in a front page story about Nazi war criminals. the apology read:

“The picture above right illustrated a front page story about the death of the Nazi war criminal, Samuel Kunz, on 23 November. We have since been told that the image is not, in fact, that of Samuel Kunz, but the Croatian actor Ljubomir Jurkovic. We are happy to make the position clear and apologise to Mr Jurkovic for the error”

Paul Gascoigne’s ex-wife Sheryl  has accepted libel damages over claims in article in the Sunday Mirror  in March 2009 under the headline “I blame Sheryl”. The story suggested that Ms Gascoigne had provoked the infamous attack on her by her then husband at the Gleneagles Hotel in October 1996 by making abusive remarks about his mother. It also claimed that, despite Gascoigne having been close to death and still in recovery in the Priory at the time, she coerced him into taking part in a TV documentary and showed no interest in his fragile mental and physical state. Finally, it said that Gascoigne’s mother claimed that Sheryl had acted callously in refusing to allow her to see her grandson, Regan, for the last six years. In a statement in Open Court  her solicitor, Roderick Chisholm-Batten, tell Mr Justice Eady that these allegations were completely untrue and that Ms Gascoigne had accepted substantial damages from the Sunday Mirror.

The Press Gazette has also reported that Twitter was banned during the hearing in the High Court of the appeal against the grant of bail to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The appeal was rejected and Mr Assange was released on bail.

In the Courts

On 13th December, Mr Justice Tugendhat handed down Judgment in Smith v ADVFN plc (No.7) [2010] EWHC 3255 (QB).    The claimant has brought 11 defamation claims he had brought against people he claimed had defamed. In May 2010 the Court of Appeal stayed a number of defamation actions brought by the claimant and ordered him to show cause why each of the remaining claims should not be struck out. Most of the claims concerned statements on internet bulletin boards. Tugendhat J struck out all the claims as having no real prospect of success. The words complained of were in many instances not defamatory, but abuse, and there were defences of qualified privilege and fair comment. Furthermore, the claimant was unlikely to establish that a significant number of publishees had read the words complained. The judge when on to make an extended civil restraint order against the claimant as his claims were wholly without merit.

On 14 December 2010 the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in the case of Pink Floyd Music Limited v EMI Records ([2010] EWCA Civ 1429) – a contractual dispute concerning downloading of music to iTunes. As we have reported in a post last week Lord Neuberger’s made general comments about anonymity in court proceedings in the court of appeal.

Events

We draw attention once again to the Inforrm, Media Standards Trust, Gray’s Inn event on 11 January 2011: “Libel Reform: in the Public’s Interest?”  This a subject of a post here.

The Blogs

Brian Cathcart has blogged on the Index on Censorship site about the Sienna Miller case.

We draw attention to two posts by Roy Greenslade on his Guardianblog.  The first post is about the possible return of the aggressive paparazzi after the royal wedding announcement. The second article concerns the sales figures for the print media:

“Here’s the breakdown. The 10 London-based national titles sell an average of 9,540,993 a day…n a country with an adult (15+) population of 50m, that’s pretty good penetration. If we allow for the fact that most titles will be read by two or three people, then it shows that we remain a nation of avid newspaper-reader. “

Next Week in the Courts

The Court of Appeal will hand down judgment in the case of Clift v Slough BC on 21 December 2010.

Reserved Judgments

The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:

Bowker v Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, heard 21 October 2010 (Sharp J).

Cambridge v Makin, heard 8 to 12 November 2010 (Tugendhat J)

Pritchard Englefield & anr v Steinberg heard 19 November 2010 (Eady J)

Wallis & anr v Meredith heard 29 November and 1 December 2010 (Christopher Clarke J)


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20 12 2010
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