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.
Once again, the News of the World phone hacking saga is the leading media law story of the week. There were new developments almost every day. On Tuesday 17 January, it was reported that Glenn Mulcaire had confirmed in court documents that a senior News of the World news editor, Ian Edmondson, commissioned him to hack phones (see our post here).
On Wednesday 18 January, applications for disclosure were made by Steve Coogan and Andy Gray against Mr Mulcaire. His counsel, Jeremy Reed, told Mr Justice Vos that Mr Mulcaire had Mr Gray’s mobile phone number, pin and password and that a third executive, Greg Miskiw, was also implicated. The applications were adjourned to 31 January.
On Friday 21 January Andy Coulson resigned as the Downing Street Director of Communications, saying in his resignation statement that
Unfortunately, continued coverage of events connected to my old job at the News of the World has made it difficult for me to give the 110% needed in this role. I stand by what I’ve said about those events but when the spokesman needs a spokesman, it’s time to move on.
Meanwhile Ian Edmondson’s lawyers have circulated the media with a notice making it clear that the resignation was not because Mr Edmondson was “about to turn Coulson in”. We have already posted on Andy Coulson’s resignation and the resulting calls for a full inquiry into the hacking affair.
On Saturday 22 January it was suggested that other newspapers may also have been involved, with Mark Lewis, who acted for Gordon Taylor in his successful claim against the News of the World telling the Guardian that he was representing four people who believe their voicemails had been intercepted by other newspaper groups. The story is taken up in the “Observer“.
On Sunday 23 January, it was reported by the “Independent on Sunday” that former prime minister Gordon Brown has asked the Metropolitan Police to investigate whether they were victims of hacking. The paper also has a story setting out some of the background – “Trials and tribulations of News International: Where, exactly, will it all end?” along with an opinion piece by solicitor Charlotte Harris.
The same day, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne “broke ranks” over phone hacking and questioned the way detectives have investigated allegations of phone hacking by the News of the World. He said that it was “clear” that the argument that just one rogue reporter was responsible for hacking did not bear scrutiny, because of the number of alleged victims.
There is extensive coverage in today’s “Guardian”, with a good “overview” piece by Roy Greenslade which on the web is entitled “The list of claimants against the News of the World is likely to grow longer in the wake of Andy Coulson’s resignation” where he argues that
the phone-hacking scandal was never really a political story. It is about journalistic ethics, in particular at the News of the World, and, in general, about the rest of the national press. It is helping to shine a light on Fleet Street’s dark arts.
The second prominent media law story of the week was the victory in Strasbourg of Mirror Group Newspapers on the “success fee” issue. We have already posted about the case and the subsequent media coverage. There is an item about the case on Out-Law. As to the likely impact of the case, solicitor Nigel Tait of Carter-Ruck told the Press Association that
“There is no doubt that the decision in MGN v UK heralds the end of the 100 per cent success fee in publication cases in the near future. But the facts in Campbell v MGN also demonstrate that the current Government proposals for ensuring access to justice in this field will not work.
Simon Singh has some interesting reflections on the case and CFAs – suggesting that CFAs should be retained to promote access to justice but with success fees reduced to 25%.
It was reported that Katie Price has launched a libel action against the publisher’s of New! magazine after it claimed she had an affair with horse trainer Andrew Gould.
The BBC reports that libel proceedings have also been commenced by Nigel Waterson, the former Conservative MP for Eastbourne against Stephen Lloyd MP, his Lib Dem successor, over comments made about expenses in an election leaflet. The story is briefly reported in the Eastbourne Herald.
The “Guardian” and the “Daily Mail” both ran the story of a threatened libel action by Midland Pig Producers Limited against the Soil Association. The threatened action concerned a proposed pig farm and biogas plant in Foston Derbyshire. There is an interesting blog post about the background here.
Journalism and the PCC
Martin Moore of the Media Standards Trust has a good blog post about the Coulson resignation and the history of the “News of the World” phone hacking case.
The PCC Watch blog discusses the complaint by the Lib Dems over the “Daily Telegraph” sting operation against Vince Cable (see our post here) under the headline “Will the PCC censure the Telegraph’s Lib Dem sting?”
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
We are not aware of any Statements in Open Court or published apologies in libel actions this week.
In the Courts
On17 January 2011, Mr Justice Tugendhat heard an application for summary judgment in the libel and breach of contract case of Aurel BGC v Relan. The matter was adjourned until next month. On 20 January 2011, the Court of Appeal heard the appeal in Brady v Norman (No.2) (from  EWHC 1215 (QB)). Judgment was reserved. On 20 to 21 January 2011 Mr Justice Tugendhat heard the case of McKeown v Attheraces Ltd. The issue was one of abuse of the process and judgment was also reserved.
Media and Freedom of Expression Law in Other Jurisdictions
We are not aware of any recent media law judgments from the Courts of Australia and Canada.
It is reported that, in Bangladesh, Nobel laureate and “micro finance” pioneer Muhammad Yunus appeared in court on 18 January to face defamation charges filed after he told an interviewer in 2007 that most politicians in his native Bangladesh were in it for the money.
It is reported that the retired French footballer Zinedine Zidane is a suing a comedian for insulting him in a sports magazine over his support for Qatar’s successful bid to host the World Cup. There is a report (in French) of his lawyer’s interview.
US Law and Media News
Once again, this will be the subject of a separate post.
No events have been reported to us for next week.
We have already mentioned the new RPC Privacy Blog which already, in the first few weeks of its existence, produced a number of highly informative posts on recent privacy issues. We are planning to review the underlying book, the Privacy Law Handbook, shortly.
We refer, again, to the Meeja Law blog’s “Monday Media Mop Up” from 17 January 2011.
The Cearta.ie blog has a post about the impact of MGN v United Kingdom on Irish cases before the Court of Human Rights.
Next Week in the Courts
On 24 January 2011, Maurice Kay and Thomas LJJ will hear an application for permission to appeal in the case of R (on the Application of Gaunt) v The Office of Communications. Our post on the decision at first instance is here.
The following reserved judgments after public hearings remain outstanding:
Bowker v Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, heard 21 October 2010 (Sharp 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)
JIH v News Group Newspapers, heard 14 January 2011 (Master of the Rolls, Maurice Kay and Smith LJJ)
Brady -v- Norman, heard 19 January 2011 (The President of the Queen’s Bench Division, Smith and Aikens LJJ)
McKeown v Attheraces Ltd, heard 20-21 January 2011 (Tugendhat J)