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

Woodbridge v Stapleton, QBD – 20 Jan 2011, Mackay J (5RB Case Report).  Libel action in respect of 5 letters copied to 8 fellow shareholders.  Defence of qualified privilege and, in respect of some letters, justification.  Plea of malice by C.  D applied for summary judgment and/or strike out in respect of C’s plea of malice strike out on Jameel principles.  No evidence that C’s reputation had suffered any actual damage.  Held.  Summary judgment granted and claim struck out as an abuse of the process.

CDE v MGN plc [2010] EWHC 3308 (QB), Eady J – 16 Dec 2010 (published 18 Jan 2011).  Privacy injunction application by married television personality and his wife in respect of story which D1 which to publish concerning a relationship between C1 an D2 conducted an “on and off” relationship between March 2009 and February 2010 by means of telephone, texts, email and tweets, with two meetings.   Held.    Cs article 8 rights were engaged. The evidence suggested that D2 had changed her mind about selling story.   Insufficient evidence to support the public interest argument that C1 had exploited a vulnerable woman for his own gratification.  Necessary and proportionate to withholds the identities of the parties to ensure, so far as possible, that the private information would not be revealed pending trial.

Henry v Newsgroup Newspapers Ltd QBD – 13 Jan 2011, Tugendhat J (5RB Case Report)  Disclosure of certain documents by a non-party, the NSPCC, was ordered in a form which had been agreed between the applicant and the non-party. There was evidence before the court that the documents requested existed and the defendant had shown it to be likely that they would support or adversely affect the case of one or other party in the libel action. The authenticity of the impugned entry was a central issue in the libel action because the words complained of were said to mean that the claimant had lied. In order to dispose fairly of those proceedings it was necessary that the NSPCC should disclose the documents sought.

MGN Ltd v UK (App No. 39401/04),  ECtHR – 18 Jan 2011.  Obligation on publisher of The Daily Mirror to pay “success fees” in a breach of privacy case found to be excessive – no violation of ECHR, art 10, as regards MGN Ltd’s complaint related to private life; a violation of art 10 as regards the “success fees” MGN Ltd had to pay. The ECtHR paid particular attention to the fact that the general CFA scheme had been the subject of detailed and lengthy domestic public consultations initiated by the British Ministry for Justice since 2003. While there had been no legislative follow-up to the consultations’ conclusions, they had identified fundamental flaws in the scheme. Those consultations (and notably the Jackson report) criticised the lack of any qualifying requirements for claimants of “success fees”; the lack of incentive for claimants to control the fees given that those were only payable if they won the case and often by the other losing party; the fact that often the losing party was forced to settle early despite good prospects of a successful defence only to avoid ever-mounting fees; and the opportunity for lawyers to “cherry-pick” cases likely to succeed and to avoid claims with smaller chances of success. The requirement on MGN Ltd to pay the fees, which had been agreed by Ms Campbell and her solicitors was disproportionate to the aim sought to be achieved by the introduction of the CFA system.

Mouvement Raëlien suisse v Switzerland (App No. 16354/06)(French only). ECtHR – 13 Jan 2011. Prohibition of a poster campaign for the Raelian Movement did not infringe its freedom of expression – Held, by a majority, that there had been no violation of ECHR, art 10.  For ECtHR press release, see here.

Hoffer & Annen v Germany (App Nos. 397/07 and 2322/07).  ECtHR – 13 Jan 2011.  Activists’ conviction of defamation for comparing abortion to the Holocaust did not breach the Convention – violation of ECHR, art 6 § 1, and no violation of art 10. The case concerned the applicants’ conviction of defamation for statements made in an anti-abortion pamphlet they distributed in front of a medical centre. For ECtHR press release, see here.

Barata Monteiro da Costa Nogueira and Patrício Pereira v Portugal (App No. 4035/08)(French only). ECtHR – 11 Jan 2011.  Conviction of politicians who publicly accused an opponent of serious criminal conduct was not disproportionate – no violation of ECHR, art 10.   For press release, see here.


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]

  • Dr Kaye Little v IC EA/2010/0072. EIR 2004, reg 12(4)(b) – whether request is manifestly unreasonable:
  • Robert Brown v IC EA/2010/0119. FIO Act 2000. Access to wills of recently deceased members of the Royal Family
  • Matthew Davis v IC EA/2010/0024. FIO Act 2000, s 40 (personal data).
  • Elmbridge Borough Council v IC EA/2010/0106. EIR 2004, regs 12(5)(e) (confidential information); reg 12(5)(f) (interests of an individual).
  • Mr Bruce Teuten v IC EA/2010/0159. FIO Act 2000, s 11 (means of communication): Please download:

Recent Developments

New edition of the Codebook published today, Press Complaints Commission, Press Release – 18 Jan 2011, Notes that an expanded version of The Editors’ Codebook, the handbook to the Code of Practice used by the PCC to adjudicate on complaints, has been launched online. For the Codebook see here.

Google to fight Spanish demands to remove ‘libelous’ links, Josh Halliday, The Guardian – 17 Jan 2011.  Reports that Google will challenge a Spanish demand to remove links to articles in newspapers, including El País, and official gazettes, in which the subjects of those articles have complained they are potentially defamatory.

Parliamentary Ombudsman criticises government agencies for data sharing blame game,  Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Press Release – 12 January 2011.  A report by the Parliamentary Ombudsman on an investigation of a complaint about HM Revenue & Customs, the Child Support Agency and the Department for Work and Pensions. Criticises the three government agencies for collectively failing to put things right when a data sharing mistake led to a woman’s personal and financial information being wrongfully disclosed to her former partner and her child support payments being reduced without her knowledge.  For report see HC-709.

Libel reform campaign isn’t a ‘big media’ proxy. John Kampfner. Press Gazette – 7 Jan 2011. Argues that “it’s vital the press embraces this opportunity to make our courts fairer, cheaper and firmly in favour of free expression.”

PCC to investigate Telegraph ‘subterfuge’ in Cable exposé. Oliver Luft.  Press Gazette – 13 Jan 2011.  The Press Complaints Commission has opened an investigation into The Daily Telegraph’s use of “subterfuge” in a series of undercover stings – one of which led to Business Secretary Vince Cable telling reporters he had “declared war on Rupert Murdoch”.

Articles and Discussion.

Ignorance isn’t bliss.  Richard Langley (Bircham Dyson Bell LLP). New Law Journal N.L.J. (2011) Vol.161 No.7448 pg.69. Considers trends in disclosure and highlights the problem that most parties are still disclosing all documents of any relevance to proceedings, rather than disclosing only those documents on which they rely and that adversely affect or support a case under the CPR standard disclosure. Notes the exacerbation of the problem through electronic disclosure and the response of CPR PD 31B (Disclosure of Electronic Documents).

Mugged by reality? Joshua RozenbergLaw Society’s Gazette L.S.G. (2011) Vol.108 No.2 pg.8.  Considers the Deputy Prime Minister’s statements on the Government’s plans regarding control orders, libel and civil liberties. Focuses on: indications that control orders will be replaced by a “more proportionate” substitute; the reform of libel law through a draft defamation bill, including the possibility of a threshold for bringing an action; and the introduction of a freedom bill, covering several measures.